More than 10,000 new Omicron cases have been reported in the UK in the highest daily surge so far, as the number of overall COVID-19 infections stood well above 90,000 cases.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed an additional 10,059 cases of the new variant on Saturday, more than three times as many as reported on Friday (3,201), taking the total number of cases to 24,968.
A total of 90,418 infections have also been reported, as the UK’s COVID-19 daily deaths tally stood at 125, up on Friday's count of 111, but down on the 132 reported last Saturday.
The death toll from the Omicron variant jumped from one to seven. “We've shown in the past as government in dealing with this pandemic that we will do what is necessary, but it's got to be backed up by data," UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in reference to reports that the government is planning tighter lockdown restrictions due to the Omicron surge.
"We are watching the data and discussing it with our scientists and our best advisers almost on an hourly basis. We will monitor very carefully, and keep the situation under review," he explained.
Ministers have received a briefing on the latest COVID-19 data and a meeting of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A emergency committee will be held over the weekend to assess if further measures are to be brought in.
"I think if new restrictions are brought in, and by the way, it's inevitable, there must be a major package of financial support for our hospitality, culture, and retail sectors,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, who declared a “major incident” in the UK capital to help deal with the city’s massive surge in the coronavirus cases.
"I'm afraid over the last few days we've seen a major surge of Omicron. Although those in hospital is less than what it was this time last year, including those on ventilators, the number of positive cases is way above. In the last 24 hours, we've had almost 30,000 confirmed new cases, and in the last seven days, more than 130,000 confirmed new cases. So, the direction of the travel is only going one way," he warned.
Current Plan B rules for England include Covid passes for certain events, face-masks in more places and people being urged to work from home if they can.
Other parts of the United Kingdom have similar rules in place, but Scotland has gone further by asking people to limit social contact to three households at a time in the run-up to Christmas.
Wales has also ordered nightclubs to close post-Christmas from December 27. Meanwhile, the National Health Service (NHS) said it has delivered 4 million booster-shots this week, recording a week-to-week jump in booster-shots of more than two-thirds, as staff and volunteers have accelerated the “get boosted now” campaign to tackle the Omicron variant.
Since Monday, the day after the announcement of the new national mission to offer all adults a booster-shots by the end of December, NHS said it is “working flat out” to increase appointments and walk-ins across the country.
Recent data from the UKHSA shows that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to fire-wall against the Omicron variant, but a booster significantly does increase protection.
According to the latest NHS statistics, three-quarters of the eligible people in England over 40 have now received their booster-shots, with that number rising to more than eight in 10 for people aged over 50.