Omicron Is 'Most Significant Threat' Since Pandemic Began, Expert Says
By Jason Hall
December 15, 2021
The Omicron variant is being viewed as "the most significant threat" to public health in the United Kingdom since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to health experts.
NBC News reports the World Health Organization provided a warning as the highly contagious new variant continued to spread on Wednesday (December 15), with Jenny Harries, the head of the U.K. Health Security Agency, predicting the rising number of cases to be "quite staggering" in the coming days.
New regulations have been implemented to decrease the spread of omicron, including a mandate for masks in public and venues requiring COVID-19 passes, both of which were passed in Parliament on Tuesday (December 14) night.
However, numerous lawmakers from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party have referred to the new measures as too severe, including lawmaker Marcus Fysh, who compared vaccination proof to Nazi Germany during an appearance on BBC Radio.
The comment led to pushback in Parliament and trended on social media, leading to Fysh later writing an apology in a piece published for the Jewish Chronicle newspaper in London.
Omicron was first reported to be in the U.K. just two weeks ago and has since become the dominant variant in London, according to a tweet shared by Kevin Fenton, the city's public health chief, on Tuesday (December 14).
More than 170,000 people have died in relation to the coronavirus in the U.K., which is the highest death toll in Europe.
Omicron is also seeing a rapid rise in the U.S., which has already led to California reimposing an indoor mask mandate that is expected to remain in place for at least one month.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr.Rochelle Walensky appeared on This Week on December 5 alongside co-anchor Martha Raddatz and said the CDC was following the then-16 cases closely, but believed the totals were "likely to rise."
"We know it has many mutations, more mutations than prior variants," Walensky said. "Many of those mutations have been associated with more transmissible variants, with evasion of some of our therapeutics, and potentially evasion of some of our immunity, and that's what we're watching really carefully."