Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister, announced on Monday that the UK had confirmed the first death caused by the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. Johnson said to reporters that “at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron”. According to recent reports, the new variant of concern appears to cause mild disease in comparison to the dominant Delta strain.
A technical briefing by the World Health Organization stated that Omicron is more contagious than Delta and reduces vaccine efficacy, but causes fewer severe symptoms. As of December 9, the Omicron variant had been detected in at least 63 countries, according to the UN health agency report.
“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,” Johnson said.
The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK began offering vaccine boosters as of Monday after its health security agency determined the additional dose of Covid vaccine significantly restored protection against Omicron-caused mild disease. The booking system is experiencing issues due to high demand for booster shots.
“The COVID vaccine booking service is currently facing extremely high demand so is operating a queueing system. For users aged 18-29, please be aware that booking opens on Wednesday 15 Dec. For all others experiencing waits, we would advise trying again later today or tomorrow,” UK NHS wrote on Twitter.
The Omicron variant is predicted to cause up to 74,800 deaths in the United Kingdom by April 2022, according to a new modelling study. If further control measures aren’t taken over and above the current ‘Plan B‘ policy in England, Omicron could cause a wave of transmission that could cause a higher number of infections and hospitalizations than during January 2021