The speed of the Omicron variant’s spread has alarmed ministers and prompted a dramatic acceleration of the booster jab programme
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Omicron is set to become the dominant strain of coronavirus in London by tomorrow, just weeks after it was first detected in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strain will be responsible for the majority of infections in the capital by Tuesday, and has warned of a “tidal wave” of cases across the country.
The first UK cases of Omicron were only confirmed on November 27 and the speed of its spread has alarmed ministers and prompted a dramatic acceleration of the booster jab programme.
Mr Johnson said today: “We can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country.
“Here, in the capital, it probably represents about 40% of the cases. By tomorrow, it will be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time.”
The UK Health Security Agency has previously projected that Omicron could become the dominant variant across the country by the middle of the month.
Speaking at a vaccination centre in Paddington, west London, Mr Johnson confirmed the first death in the UK of a patient with Omicron.
“I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,” he said.
“So the best thing we can all do is get our boosters. We’re opening up centres across the country.
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“We’re getting in the Army to help with the logistics, we’re expanding in every possible way. And what we need now is for the public to respond. And to do what is necessary: get boosted now.”
A lengthy queue developed at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, just across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, as rules were relaxed to allow all eligible over-18s to get a booster.
A further 1,576 cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant have been reported across the UK today, taking the total number to 4,713, the UK Health Security Agency said.
Of those additional cases, 1,534 have been reported across England, 27 have been reported in Scotland and 15 are in Wales.
There were no additional cases reported across Northern Ireland, the UKHSA said.
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