Britain said on Monday that the Omicron coronavirus variant was spreading at a “phenomenal rate” and now accounted for about 40% of infections in London, so people should get a booster shot because the double-vaccinated are still vulnerable.
Since the first Omicron cases were detected on Nov. 27 in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed tougher restrictions and told the nation on Sunday that a “tidal wave” of Omicron was coming.
Britain says that unless action is taken there could be a million people infected with Omicron by the end of the month.
“It’s spreading at a phenomenal rate, something that we’ve never seen before, it’s doubling every two to three days in infections,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News. “That means we’re facing a tidal wave of infection, we’re once again in a race between the vaccine and the virus.”
The pound fell 0.4% to $1.3225, while it was broadly steady against the euro at 85.29 pence.
Johnson, who is grappling with a rebellion in his party over measures to curb Omicron and an outcry over alleged parties at his Downing Street office during last year’s lockdowns, said people should rush to get booster vaccines to protect “our freedoms and our way of life.”
After COVID-19 was first detected in China in late 2019, he faced criticism for initially resisting lockdown.
He has also been criticized for overseeing mistakes in transferring patients into care homes, and for building a costly test-and-trace system that failed to stop a deadly second wave.
Johnson has repeatedly said that while mistakes were made, the government was making decisions at pace in the biggest public health crisis for generations and that his government was swift to roll out vaccines.