By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Tuesday of a steep rise in the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus as his government gears up for a vote in parliament on new restrictions.
During a virtual cabinet meeting, Johnson warned that a "huge spike of omicron is coming" to the UK and that there would also be a "huge spike" in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming months.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty also made a warning that a "significant increase" in hospitalizations should be expected and that cases would double every two or three days.
With reports that omicron cases have plateaued in South Africa, Whitty said it was too early to say if this was the case as there have been no reliable evidence to this effect, thus urging public vigilance through the coming months.
Parliament is expected to vote on the proposed "Plan B" measures later on Tuesday, measures that would see the introduction of some restrictions, including entry rules for large venues, mask mandates, and mandatory proof of vaccination or negative test results.
Lawmakers will also vote on whether or not healthcare workers would have to prove their vaccination status in order to work.
Such measures are expected to pass, though the government is expecting a major rebellion from within as many Tory members of parliament have vowed to vote against them.
The UK on Sunday raised its COVID-19 alert stance to Level 4 -- the second-highest -- amid a surge in cases of the omicron variant.
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 had been at Level 3 since May.