Johnson Reports Britain’s First Known Death From the Omicron Coronavirus Variant

LONDON (The Washington Post) -
A face mask lies on the floor on an empty street in London, Monday. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

At least one person has died from the Omicron variant, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday as he urged Britons to increase their protection with a booster shot.

Johnson, who was speaking to reporters during a visit to a vaccination clinic in West London on Monday, said that the Omicron variant “was producing hospitalizations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died 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 recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,” he said, adding, “the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.”

His comments come amid scenes of long queues outside clinics as Britons scramble to get their third dose of vaccination. Others who tried to book appointments via the NHS website were told to try again later. Some people said that the NHS website had crashed.

On Sunday evening, Johnson announced in a media address that Britain would try to get booster shots to everyone aged 18 and over by the beginning of January, bringing forward an earlier deadline by a month. To reach that target, the national health service will need to carry out about a million vaccinations a day, double what they are doing now.

Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned Monday that Omicron infections were doubling every two to three days and that “we’re once again in a race between the vaccine and the virus.”

“Two doses are not enough, but three doses still provide excellent protection against symptomatic infection,” Javid told Sky News.

The British government on Sunday also raised its COVID alert level to four, the second highest level on its scale, meaning that there are high or rising levels of transmission.

Johnson’s address to the nation was prerecorded, which meant that journalists couldn’t ask him questions about the variant or restrictions or an ongoing scandal about several alleged parties at Downing Street in 2020 during a time of strict lockdown.

The new restrictions coming into effect this week include a call for people who can work from home to do so, to wear face masks in most indoor venues, and to show proof of vaccines or a negative test for entrance into venues with large crowds. The government also said that daily testing would replace isolating for those who come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

Normally, these coronavirus tests can be ordered at no charge on a government website.

But on Monday morning, the government website read: “Sorry, there are no more home test kids available right now.”