Daily Covid-19 cases reached their highest level in nearly a year as experts warned that the Omicron variant could become the dominant strain in the UK by mid-December.
An Omicron analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also found that two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and Pfizer provided «significantly lower» levels of protection against Omicron when compared to the delta variant.
But the Occupational Health and Safety Services Authority (UKHSA) said preliminary data showed the vaccine’s efficacy was «significantly increased» in the early period after a booster dose, providing about 70 to 75 per cent protection against symptomatic infection.
The news came as UK leaders met with Cobra on Friday afternoon to discuss the latest data and their coordinated response, after which Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said the UK faced a «situation of great concern».
The government said, as of 9am on Friday, there were 58,194 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK.
The last time a higher daily figure was reported was on January 9, when 59,937 cases were recorded.
An additional 448 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, according to the UKHSA, bringing the total to 1,265.
A breakdown shows that 443 additional cases have been reported in England, one in Scotland and four in Wales. No other cases have been reported in Northern Ireland.
The Cobra meeting was held virtually by Mr Gove in his capacity as Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, who continued to self-isolate after contacting Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who tested positive for Covid.
Mr. Goff is understood to have tested negative but has been isolated as a precaution while he waits to see if Mr. Joyce has contracted the Omicron variant.
After the meeting, he said the UK faced a «very worrying situation» given the rapid rate at which the Omicron variant was spreading across the country.
Speaking to the broadcasters, the Cabinet Minister said: “The Cobra meeting that I have just chaired with early ministers from all the delegated departments has presented him with some very challenging new information.
“We know we have the highest number of Covid infections across the UK on record today since 9 January.
«We know that the Omicron variant doubles every two to three days in England, and possibly faster in Scotland.
«We know that 30% of cases reported in London are Omicron and of course we only identified Omicron in this country two weeks ago.»
Mr Goff also cautioned that evidence suggests Omicron is «more likely» than previous variants of Covid to «probably» lead to hospitalization among those fully vaccinated.
Earlier on Friday, the Scottish first minister warned that a new wave of coronavirus could spread north of the border.
Nicola Sturgeon told a news briefing in Edinburgh that the country could experience a «tsunami of infection» from the new alternative to Omicron – and she could not rule out further restrictions in Scotland as a result.
However, No. 10 confirmed there were «no plans» to proceed with the proceedings in England.
It has been reported that proposals are being developed for Plan C, which includes stricter rules.
But when asked about the matter on Friday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: «There are no plans to go beyond what we have already laid out.
«Obviously we need to keep the characteristics of this variable under review, and we will act if necessary, but there are no plans to go beyond what we have set out.»
He added that the government was «closely» monitoring the situation in care homes.
«We haven’t made any final decisions on whether more action is needed in care homes, and I think as you’d expect given the additional weakness, we’re watching closely what might be needed there,» he said.
From Friday, the legal requirement to wear masks in England has been extended to more indoor spaces including museums, galleries and community centres.
There will be a return to work from home on Monday, and mandatory Covid passports for large places from Wednesday, as the government’s Plan B goes into effect.
The new regulations will be up for debate and vote in the House of Commons next week – and with Labour’s backing, they are sure to be approved despite the prospect of a major Conservative revolt.
When asked about the expected Tory rebellion, Mr Gove told broadcasters he believed MPs would balance civil liberties considerations with the need to address the fact that Omicron was «particularly spreading in a way that means even those who have been vaccinated twice are more likely to succumb to this virus and find themselves Sick, injured, and potentially hospitalized.”
He added: «These facts mean we need to take action, which is why we are making proposals to the House of Commons on Tuesday.
«And I am confident that the people will consider these proposals earnestly, splendidly, and thoughtfully, and I am also confident that the people will conclude, in a balanced way, that it is right to act.»
Professor John Edmonds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), has described the stricter restrictions as a «necessary evil».
He said at a press conference for the Royal Society of Medicine: «I think it is a necessary evil … it is very harmful to parts of the economy, the hospitality sector, the retail sector in particular – they will be affected.»
The government also said on Friday that 120 more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the Covid-19 virus.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there are now 171,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate.
we visited Covid-19 vaccine dashboard For updates on the start of the vaccination program and the rate of coronavirus cases in Ireland
«Lector profesional. Jugador galardonado. Aficionado a los zombis. Adicto a las redes sociales. Experto en tocino. Erudito en Internet»