ANKARA, Dec 13  — The United Kingdom on Sunday increased its COVID-19 alert level to Level 4 — its second highest level — amid a surge in cases of the Omicron variant, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.

The decision came at the recommendation of the country’s four chief medical officers and the medical director of the National Health Service (NHS), the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement.

“Transmission of COVID-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by (the) Delta (variant), but the emergence of omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services,” they said, adding early evidence shows that omicron is “spreading much faster” than delta.

Noting that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced, the chief medical officers urged people to get a booster shot to top up their protection, calling it “essential.”

“The NHS is currently under pressure mainly driven by non-COVID-19 pressures,” they said. “With a variant spreading with increased transmissibility and reduced vaccine effectiveness, we are likely to see this pressure rise soon.”

Level 4, according to the government’s guidance, means “a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high and direct COVID-19 pressure on health care services is widespread and substantial or rising.”

The country was at Level 3 since May.

The UK has reported 3,137 cases of the new variant so far.


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