NHS England has moved to the highest alert level after Omicron cases in the UK skyrocketed by 50 per cent in just 24 hours.
The decision to move from level 3 to level 4 was made on Sunday after health chiefs indicated that there was substantial pressure on the NHS.
NHS England moved from level 3 to level 4 on SundayCredit: PA
The alert was raised to level four meaning that there is a real threat that the rise in infections could force the closure of other vital health services.
“The emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services,” NHS England said.
“Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.”
Level 4 is defined by the Government as: “a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high and direct Covid-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising.”
In May the alert level was moved down from 4 to 3.
The move comes as the health service was told to put non-urgent care on the backburner and drive the booster vaccine for all adults in the UK.
Booster slots opened up for over-30s on the NHS website this morning.
People rushed to secure a booking to get fully protected against the variant after the latest data showed three jabs are needed to fight off the infection.
Of the new cases reported today, 1,534 are in England, 27 are from Scotland and 15 are from Wales.
The total number of all Covid cases have jumped up by 54,661 within 24 hours, with 38 new deaths.
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Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs today: “The UK Health Security Agency estimates that the current rate of, the current number of daily infections are around 200,000.
“While Omicron represents over 20 per cent of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44 per cent in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours.”
It comes as the first UK death from the Omicron variant was confirmed by Boris Johnson this morning.
The UKHSA revealed ten patients were in English hospitals with the mutated strain – between 18-85 years old, most having had two jabs.
Brits have been urged to get their boosters to fight the wave of variant cases.
Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, in west London, the Prime Minister said: “Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.
“So 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 recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population.
“So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.”
In new data from Sage, the group that advises the Government, it is estimated two Covid jabs should slash the risk of dying from Omicron by up to 84 per cent.
But the models also showed the chance of simply catching the virus and falling ill is twice reduced if you have a booster too.
The latest data revealed boosters offer up to 75 per cent protection from mild infection from Omicron.
UKHSA figures showed immunity from two doses of AstraZeneca was close to zero after six months, but a third dose with Pfizer saw protection from the super-strain rocket as high as 70 per cent.
Even with full protection, as cases rise and we near Christmas, it’s still advised to wear masks, keep washing hands and keep windows open for ventilation.
It comes as the NHS website to book boosters crashed as Brits flooded onto it hoping to secure slots, and the lateral flow ordering site declared it had run out for the day.
Walk-in centres, such as the Greendale Vaccination Centre in Devon, said they couldn’t accept any more people due to huge demand, after long snakes of queueing people grew outside hubs all over the country.
Despite being highly contagious, initial studies indicate the new strain does not often lead to serious diseases like the Delta variant if fully vaccinated.
Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, examined UK Omicron super-spreader events involving older people — and found the patients mainly suffered “sniffles”.
He said: “What we’re seeing so far is that symptoms are very, very mild.
“Most of my information comes from one big event, a 60th birthday party where 18 people aged 60 to 75 spent the night together in a hotel.
“Most of them had symptoms of a cold — sniffles, sore throat and fatigue were common.”
But even with full protection, as cases rise and we near Christmas, it’s still advised to wear masks, keep washing hands and keep windows open for ventilation.
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