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Under-fire Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the UK "is now facing an emergency" in it's battle against the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in a special TV address broadcast on Sunday night.
And speaking to every adult across the United Kingdom, the PM urged every single one of us to take up booster Covid vaccine jabs sooner rather than later as part of an "Emergency Omicron Boost".
As part of that effort, every over 18 will be offered a booster jab before New Year's Day – bringing the previous deadline of the end of January 2022 forward a whole month.
In the message directly from Downing Street, Johnson said: "No-one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming, and I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.
"But the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose – – a booster dose –we can all bring our level of protection back up."
The grim news comes on the same evening it was confirmed that the UK's Covid Alert Level has been increased from Level 3 to Level 4 “in light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases”.
Cases of the new variant in the UK have risen to 3,137 tonight – this time a week ago there were just 197 recorded.
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Boris went on: "Do not make the mistake of thinking Omicron can’t hurt you; can’t make you and your loved ones seriously ill.
"We’ve already seen hospitalisations doubling in a week in South Africa.
"And we have patients with Omicron in hospital here in the UK right now.
"At this point our scientists cannot say that Omicron is less severe, and even if that proved to be true, we already know it is so much more transmissible – that a wave of Omicron through a population that was not boosted would risk a level of hospitalisation that could overwhelm our NHS and lead sadly to very many deaths.
"So we must act now."
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The address comes at a tense time for Johnson's government.
On Saturday evening, the PM himself was accused of breaking coronavirus laws by hosting a Christmas quiz in Downing Street last year.
Johnson was pictured on screen sitting underneath a portrait of former PM Margaret Thatcher as he read out quiz questions.
A source told The Sunday Mirror many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and drinking fizz, beer and wine from a local Tesco Metro.
The insider said in one office there were four teams each made up of six participants.
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The quiz took place on December 15, three days before an alleged No10 Christmas party now being probed, with the PM flanked by two members of his top team who were not drinking.
At the time, London was under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between households – which Mr Johnson appeared to have breached by mixing with the aides.
A No10 spokesman said of the new revelations: “This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.
“The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”
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