The Prime Minister will give a Covid update at 8pm from Downing Street where he is expected to discuss the booster programme
Image: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)
Boris Johnson will give a televised address to the nation tonight on Covid as the UK’s threat level was raised.
The Prime Minister will give a Covid update at 8pm from Downing Street, which is expected to focus on ramping up the booster rollout to battle the new Omicron variant.
The UK Covid Alert Level has been increased from Level 3 to Level 4 “in light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases”, the four UK chief medical officers said.
The joint statement said: “Transmission of COVID-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by Delta, but the emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.
“Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.
“Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.”
Mr Johnson is due to discuss a significant expansion of the booster programme as fears mount over the spread of Omicron.
He is not expected to announce any changes to Covid restrictions – or to cancel Christmas – at this point.
A No10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will give an address to the nation from Downing Street this evening, providing an update on the booster programme. This will be broadcast at 8pm.”
The PM will not be taking questions after making the statement.
The UK’s top medics decided to ramp up the Covid alert level as a further 1,239 confirmed Omicron cases were recorded in the UK as of Sunday.
Total cases of the new strain have rocketed by 65% since Saturday, rising from 1,893 to 3,137.
Earlier, Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), warned that a large third wave of infections was “inevitable” and further restrictions may be needed.
She said people will have to reduce social contacts, and urged everyone to take lateral flow tests before going out to meet anyone.
Dr Hopkins told the BBC: “It’s inevitable that we’re going to see a big wave of infections.
“What we are not yet clear on, and which is what we are basically making sure people go out and get their vaccination for, is how much that will affect hospitals.”
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the UK was now locked in a race between the jabs programme and the infectious new variant.
New modelling suggests that, under one scenario, almost twice the number of Covid patients could be admitted to hospital compared with last year due to the impact of Omicron.
Experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine calculated figures which say a large wave of infections could occur over the next few months if tougher measures are not brought in.
Analysis by the UKHSA has found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provide “much lower” levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared with Delta.
But the UKHSA said a booster dose gives around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron, as it urged people to have their boosters.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.