Europe

London lockdown POLL: Should capital be shut down as Omicron cases erupt?

Omicron: 10,059 confirmed new cases of variant

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The London Mayor’s decision came the day after UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) put the total number of Omicron cases recorded across the UK at almost 25,000 as of 6pm, up by more than 10,000 cases from 24 hours earlier. Seven people believed to have had the Omicron variant had died as of Thursday, up from one death in the UKHSA’s previous data which ran up to Tuesday. 

Hospitalisations of people thought to have the variant increased to 85 from 65.

Mr Khan declared a “major incident” – which allows for closer coordination between different public agencies and possibly more central Government support – as COVID-19 hospital admissions in the city rose by nearly 30 percent this week.

He said health worker absences had also increased.

Speaking during a visit to Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club which is being used as a mass vaccination centre, Mr Khan said: “I’ve taken the decision, in consultation with our partners, to declare a major incident today.

“This is a statement of how serious things are.”

Labour Mayor Mr Khan also declared a major incident in January, when rising COVID-19 cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

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Other politicians are less convinced of the wisdom of increased restrictions.

Writing for Express.co.uk, Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, Mr Davies said: A huge proportion of the population has been double jabbed and almost half of all adults have had the booster, including virtually everyone who is at risk of serious illness from Covid.

“And yet here we are again, in almost the same situation as last Christmas, with the Government imposing restrictions and the nanny state public health professionals telling us not to socialise with anyone or attend sporting events.”

He added: “What is perhaps more surprising is the number of people who have been frightened all over again. What do people think the vaccinations are for?

“The whole purpose is so that we can go about our lives knowing that if we catch Covid we will more than likely avoid serious illness.

“If we’re going to introduce restrictions on our lives every time there is a new variant – given that Covid will be with us forever – then we may as well have not bothered and just locked ourselves away forever.”

Moreover, Mr Johnson has found himself under increasing pressure from his own party, with 99 of his own MPs voting against the introduction of vaccine passports last week.

Nevertheless, the Omicron variant is estimated to account for more than 80 of new COVID-19 cases in London, officials said on Friday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to chair an emergency committee meeting over the weekend with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have their own powers over public health.

Sky News said Government ministers were being briefed on the latest coronavirus data on Saturday.

Widespread media reports have suggested officials are preparing draft new rules that, if introduced, would ban indoor mixing in England except for work for two weeks after Christmas when pubs and restaurants would be limited to table service outdoors.

People would be able to meet in groups of up to six outdoors, although ministers were yet to formally consider the plans, The Times said.

On Friday, Mr Johnson insisted: “We are not closing things down.”

However, a Government spokesman said No10 would continue to “look closely at all the emerging data and we’ll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant”.

The total number of all new COVID-19 cases reported in official data edged down to 90,418 from a record high of more than 93,000 on Friday, but that was still the country’s second-highest daily toll. Figures typically dip at the weekend.

Cases were up 44.4 percent over the seven days to December 18 compared with the previous week.

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