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Covid Live Updates: ‘Tidal Wave’ of Omicron

THE NEW YORK TIMES — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said on Sunday evening that the country’s coronavirus vaccine booster program would be accelerated to counter what he called a “tidal wave” of cases from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Mr. Johnson said the British government would now aim to offer all eligible adults a booster shot by the end of this year, a month earlier than the goal he set on Nov. 30 to deliver these millions of shots by the end of January.

“No one should be in any doubt: There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming,” Mr. Johnson said in a videotaped address, “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.”

Mr. Johnson, who has been under extreme pressure for days after the disclosure that his aides held a holiday party in breach of coronavirus restrictions last year, did not announce any major new social-distancing restrictions.

But the government raised the Covid alert level from three to four — its second-highest level — amid signs that Omicron was spreading rapidly throughout the country.

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In raising the alert level, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland declared in a statement:

“[E]arly evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.”

The first real-world study of how vaccines hold up against the Omicron variant, published by British government scientists on Friday, indicated a significant drop in protection, though booster doses provided considerable defense.

Under what Mr. Johnson called the “Omicron Emergency Boost,” the government will offer booster shots to adults ages 18 and older by New Year’s Day.

Adults are eligible for a booster shot three months after their second shot. Britain has distributed 23.1 million booster shots …

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