At least one person has died in Britain after being infected with the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, as the country launched an ambitious Covid booster shot programme to stop the virus’ spread.
Britain — among the countries worst hit by the global health crisis since last year — is believed to be the first government to officially announce a death from the virus mutation.
On a visit to a vaccination centre in west London, Johnson said Omicron accounted for about 40 percent of the cases in the British capital, and hospital admissions were rising.
“Sadly, at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” he told reporters, a day after warning the country was facing a “tidal wave” of infection.
Britain on Sunday sounded the alarm by raising the national Covid Alert Level because of high levels and rising rates of transmission.
In a rare televised address, Johnson said emergency measures were needed to prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed in the weeks ahead.
All adults will now be able to receive a third dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of December after the government brought forward its deadline by one month.
But in a sign of huge demand, the National Health Service (NHS) vaccination booking site crashed and users requesting rapid testing kits were told they were out of stock.
Long queues were seen at London clinics. At one, Sarah Jackson, 29, said she had taken the morning off to get a jab before visiting her grandparents at Christmas.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be enough. I was told there is a queue of two hours to register and then two hours to get vaccinated,” she told AFP.
“But I have to go back to work at 1:30 pm.”
The “turbocharged” booster programme has seen military planners asked to set up and run extra vaccination centres around the clock.
Some 500,000 booster jabs were given on Saturday but to hit the new deadline that number will have to be doubled every day for the remainder of the year to slow the spread.
Concerns have mounted about a new wave because of indications that two jabs are less effective against infection than three.