Europe

Boris Johnson to give COVID update today with Professor Chris Whitty and Dr Nikki Kanani amid Omicron spread

Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street news conference today in which he will give an update on the booster rollout amid the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.

The prime minister will be joined by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and medical director of primary care for NHS England, Dr Nikki Kanani.

Mr Johnson is expected to update the country on the progress of the ramped-up booster programme at 5pm – you can follow it live here.

He is not expected to announce any further coronavirus restrictions.

It comes after the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries, told MPs that the new variant was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic“.

“The numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants,” she said.

She added that it was still not clear how severe the strain was compared to Delta.

“The real potential risk here – and I would underline that because we are still learning a lot about the variant – is in relation to its severity, clinical severity, and therefore whether those cases turn into severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths,” she said.

MPs yesterday approved the government’s plan to reintroduce some COVID restrictions following the emergence of Omicron.

The new rules involve regulations on face masks, isolation rules, COVID passes and compulsory vaccinations for healthcare workers.

But the transport secretary told Sky News earlier that the government wanted people “to be sensible but to enjoy their Christmas“, noting that increased testing and vaccines had put the UK “in a much better position” this year.

There were 59,610 new COVID infections and 150 further deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test reported in government figures on Tuesday.

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