Britain has recorded its first death from the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the death Monday, the day after he warned during a nationally televised speech that Britain was facing a “tidal wave” of new infections from omicron.
Johnson announced his government was launching a campaign to get everyone in the country a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by New Year’s Eve, accelerating his previous deadline by a full month.
The prime minister said that more than 40 military planning teams will be deployed across the country to establish vaccination centers, and ordered primary doctors, known in Britain as general practitioners, or GPs, to postpone appointments for routine medical procedures to help meet the goal of vaccinating 1 million people a day.
The government raised the COVID-19 alert level Sunday before Johnson’s speech from level three to level four – its second-highest — warning that omicron is spreading much faster than the delta variant, which would overwhelm the National Health Service with new case. Recent studies suggest a third dose is more effective in preventing infections from omicron than the standard two-dose regimen.
Prime Minister Johnson’s accelerated vaccination campaign comes as he faces a revolt from members of his Conservative party over his government’s new restrictions, including mandatory mask wearing and requiring people to show proof they have been vaccinated before they can enter large venues.
Johnson is also under fire over revelations that his staff held parties at his official office and residence on 10 Downing Street last year despite a strict lockdown imposed on the public.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.