By Rabia Iclal Turan
ISTANBUL (AA) - With more cases of the omicron coronavirus variant are being reported across Europe, countries are bracing for a new wave and weighing additional measures.
“There is a tidal wave of omicron coming,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday warned, urging citizens to receive COVID-19 booster shots.
Only a day after this warning, Johnson confirmed the first death in the UK due to the omicron variant.
“Sadly, yes, omicron is producing hospitalizations, and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with omicron,” Johnson said Monday, speaking at a vaccine center in Paddington, west London.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, Health Minister Robin Swann said they expect “significantly increased” levels of infection, encouraging booster vaccines.
The UK Monday reported 54,661 more coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, with 38 deaths, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid said omicron now makes up 20% of cases in the country.
Since it was first reported to the WHO from southern Africa on Nov. 24, the new omicron variant has been spreading around the world, causing a rise in the number of coronavirus cases on the European continent, with some of the countries imposing restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Omicron is the fifth SARS-CoV-2 variant designated as a “variant of concern” by WHO, following the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 6,430 omicron cases were reported by 70 countries globally, with 1,686 of them in the EU.
According to the ECDC, Norway tops the list across the EU in the number of omicron cases, with 958 confirmed infections as of Dec. 13, causing tightening of restrictions.
The country announced new curbs as Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store warned Monday during a news conference that omicron and delta variants together would create "a total saturation of the health system."
Norway encourages the speeding of the vaccination campaign, reducing the gap between the second and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four-and-a-half months for people aged over 45 and health workers, offering booster shots by mid-January.
The serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants will also be banned in addition to stricter rules for swimming pools and gyms.
The country of 5.4 million has reported over 319,000 COVID-19 cases with 1,136 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As of Dec. 13, Denmark reported 195 omicron cases confirmed through whole-genome sequencing, according to the ECDC, and 2,276 infections were registered nationwide through a variant-specific PCR.
The Nordic country reported 7,799 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Monday, its highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, while currently 480 people are hospitalized, according to official data.
Danish health authorities decided to push the third dose of COVID-19 jab for everyone aged 40 and above, reducing the gap between the second and third doses to four-and-a-half months.
Since the start of the pandemic, Denmark reported over 562,000 cases of coronavirus, with over 3,000 people losing their lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.
German authorities have so far confirmed 28 cases of the omicron variant.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported further 36 suspected cases of omicron and said further tests were underway to determine the variant type.
Experts said the actual number of omicron cases in Germany could be much higher, as samples are not sequenced for every confirmed COVID-19 case.
Germany recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases earlier this month with nearly 75,000 new infections and more than 500 deaths in a single day.
Hungary on Monday reported its first cases of the new omicron coronavirus variant.
Speaking to Hungary's M1 TV channel, the Central European country's national chief medical officer, Cecilia Muller, said the strain was detected in two people.
While one patient was experiencing mild symptoms, the other was receiving hospital treatment, Muller said.
Hungarian Health Ministry recorded a total of 16,017 coronavirus infections over the last three days.