- Sputnik International, 1920
Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.

Johnson Urges Brits to Get COVID Booster Jabs Ahead of Omicron 'Tidal Wave'

© REUTERS / May JamesA person wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) walks outside St Thomas' Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, December 12, 2021.
A person wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) walks outside St Thomas' Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, December 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
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As of Sunday, at least 3,137 cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been identified in the UK, amounting to over 1,000 additional cases since last Saturday. The variant's rapid spread has resulted in British health officials raising the UK COVID Alert Level from "Level 3" to "Level 4".
In a pre-recorded address to the UK public, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new "Omicron Emergency Boost" initiative that seeks to accelerate the availability of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to Brits.
Under the vaccination campaign, those in England aged 18 years and over will be eligible to receive a booster dose before the year end.

"No one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming", the UK prime minister declared, noting that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine "are simply not enough to give you the level of protection we all need".

"Do not make the mistake of thinking Omicron can't hurt you; can't make you and your loved ones seriously ill", Johnson added.
Those aged 30 years and older will be able to begin booking a booster shot appointment on Monday, according to the National Health Service (NHS). Younger adults will be eligible to book an appointment beginning Wednesday.
An early analysis published on Friday by the UK Health Security Agency suggested that the two-dose vaccines offered by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech are less effective in combating the Omicron COVID-19 variant, when compared to the Delta variant.
The analysis — based on 581 people confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant —found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster provided around 70% protection for those who initially received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and about 75% protection for those who originally received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The UK prime minster's Sunday address came shortly after NHS England National Medical Director Stephen Powis and several chief UK health officials recommended the country increase its COVID-19 alert level.

"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", read the joint release.

Health experts noted that a reduction in vaccine protection and an increased transmissibility of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are poised to increase pressure on an already-strained NHS.
"It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your COVID vaccination now - whether this be your first, second or booster dose", officials urged.
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