Omicron looms large in Britain: Cases surge in 24 hours, London rings the alarm

London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” over Omicron to allow for closer coordination between public agencies and possibly more central government support, as Covid-19 hospital admissions in the city rose by nearly 30 per cent this week.
Shoppers, some wearing face coverings to combat the spread of Covid-19, walk past stalls and shops in the Apple Market in Covent Garden on the last Saturday for shopping before Christmas, in central London on December 18, 2021. (AFP)
Shoppers, some wearing face coverings to combat the spread of Covid-19, walk past stalls and shops in the Apple Market in Covent Garden on the last Saturday for shopping before Christmas, in central London on December 18, 2021. (AFP)
Published on Dec 19, 2021 08:44 AM IST
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Written by Joydeep Bose | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Omicron variant of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus is spreading at a remarkable pace in the United Kingdom (UK). According to British government data, a marked surge in cases was reported in a span of mere 24 hours. Moreover, London's mayor Sadiq Khan has also declared a “major incident” to help the city's hospitals cope with the Omicron surge.

The UK health security agency (UKHSA) said that the number of Omicron cases recorded across Britain hit almost 25,000 by Friday evening, an increase of more than 10,000 cases from 24 hours earlier.

To make matters worse, as many as seven people, who were believed to have been infected with the Omicron variant, died as of Thursday, up from the one death in the UKHSA's previous data which ran up to Tuesday. Hospitalisation numbers also increased during this span – admissions of people thought to have been infected with Omicron increased to 85 from 65.

However, the real number of Omicron cases eludes government data, authorities acknowledged. Hundreds of thousands of people were “almost certainly” being infected with the variant every day and were not being picked up in the figures, the British government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said.

If the current trend for the Omicron surge continues in England, a peak of at least 3,000 hospital admissions per day is to be expected, SAGE said, advising a further tightening of coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-necessitated rules.  Notably, daily hospitalisations in the UK had surged above 4,000 last January, before the nationwide vaccination programme gathered steam and brought the numbers down.

London declares ‘major emergency’ over Omicron

Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” over Omicron to allow for closer coordination between public agencies and possibly more central government support, as Covid-19 hospital admissions in the city rose by nearly 30 per cent this week.

London has now logged the highest number of new Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic – over 26,000.

“I've taken the decision, in consultation with our partners, to declare a major incident today,” Khan, the city's mayor, said in a Sky News broadcast.

Germany puts UK on list of high-risk countries

Germany's health authority announced late Saturday that Britain had been added to its list of Covid high-risk countries, which will mean tighter travel restrictions.

“The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are very strongly affected by Covid-19. A new variant, very contagious, has also been found,” the Germany Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website.

The change, which takes effect at the end of the day Sunday at midnight, means arrivals from Britain will have to observe a two-week quarantine regardless of whether they are vaccinated, said the country's health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

In addition to the quarantine measure, only German nationals or foreigners residing in Germany will be allowed to come to the country from Britain. The rule applies to all means of transport and a PCR test will be required for all persons travelling to Germany.

 

 

(With inputs from agencies)

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