Covid alert level raised to four as Omicron spreads meaning transmission is 'high' and 'substantial' pressure on NHS

Covid alert level raised to four as Omicron spreads meaning transmission is 'high' and 'substantial' pressure on NHS

THE UK's Covid alert level has been raised to four as Omicron cases continue to spike.

The alert was hiked to the second highest level, meaning transmission of the virus is "high" and pressure on the NHS is "widespread and substantial or rising".

The UK's Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director recommended the alert level was raised as Omicron poses "a rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services".

A move to level five would mean there was a "material risk" of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Another 1,239 Omicron cases were confirmed today, bringing total UK infections of the variant to 3,137.

Earlier, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi confirmed patients have been hospitalised with the super-strain in the UK for the first time.

Cases of the super-strain are doubling every two to three days and Mr Zahawi warned Britain could see a million daily infections by the end of December.

But he urged Brits to get booster jabs with data showing a third dose offer good protection from infection.

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Millions more can book Covid boosters from TODAY – are you eligible?

Milloins more Brits are eligible to book their Covid boosters from today as the NHS continues to supercharge the nation's immunity.

The booking system is now open to everyone aged 30 and over in a bid to tackle the Omicron variant threat.

No10 is scrambling to stave off a winter surge and is begging Brits to get their boosters as The Sun's Jabs Army campaign marshals recruits to help with the rollout.

Speaking to Sky's Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Mr Zahawi said: "Let's do a mathematic exercise for a second; You get to a million infections by say the end of December – 1 per cent is 10,000 severe infections that could be in hospital.

"Three days later it is two million, three days later it is four million. Three days beyond that it is eight million.

"That is the risk, that even if it is milder, say 50 per cent milder than Delta, then the numbers are huge – it is a small percentage of a very large population."

There are no confirmed Omicron deaths yet, and it's not known if those in hospital after contracting the virus variant are in intensive care.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures show boosters offer up to 75 per cent protection from mild infection from Omicron.

Immunity from infection with two doses of AstraZeneca was close to zero after six months, but a third dose with Pfizer saw protection rocket up to 70 per cent.

SCHOOL FEARS

Meanwhile, parents face a New Year nightmare after Mr Zahawi refused to guarantee all schools will open again in January.

He suggested kids may have to learn from home again in the future as part of the battle against the Omicron mutation.

Asked by the BBC's Andrew Marr if he could make the promise that schools won't close, he said: "We are absolutely working to make sure that all schools are open, that they're protected.

"I will do everything in my power.

That is the risk that even if it is milder, say 50 per cent milder than Delta, then the numbers are huge

It comes as Brits who have contact with someone with any Covid variant were ordered to take seven daily lateral flow tests.

The new government measures, which kick in from Tuesday, apply to double jabbed people as well.

But the 10-day isolation period for Omicron contacts has been axed.

Boris Johnson introduced tougher rules on Omicron contacts – including the double jabbed – having to isolate for 10 days last month.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid has now announced those measures to curb the spread of the infectious super-strain will be axed from Tuesday.

Omicron is expected to become the dominant Covid variant in the UK over the next few days as cases continue to surge.

There were fears among ministers and businesses that the fast-spreading Omicron variant would lead to a new "pingdemic".

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