UK records 100,000 COVID-19 cases for 1st time

UK records 100,000 COVID-19 cases for 1st time

Wales introduces social distancing rules as omicron spread continues across UK

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) - The UK on Wednesday reported a record 100,000 coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began.

On Dec. 22, 106,122 people had tested positive for the virus. In the week beginning Dec. 16, 643,219 people had a confirmed positive test result, representing a 58.9% increase when compared to the previous week.

Some 140 people died on Wednesday and 783 deaths were reported within a month of testing positive of the virus, a 2.7% decrease when compared to the previous week.

More than 51.57 million people have been administered their first dose of the vaccine with over 47.15 million receiving their second by the end of Dec. 21.

Wednesday’s daily record highlights the potency and high transmissibility of the omicron variant that continue to spread across the UK and is fast becoming the dominant variant in the country. It is also largely responsible for the increase in hospitalizations.

- New measures declared in Wales

The Welsh government on Wednesday introduced tougher measures to contain the spread of the omicron variant.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the return of social distancing rules will come into force at 6.00 a.m. UK time on Dec. 26.

“Omicron is here already in Wales and it is now spreading quickly,” Drakeford said, adding that he implemented “alert level two measures” in response to its spread.

According to the new rules enacted by the Welsh government, hospitality venues accessible to the public such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theatres would have to apply the two-meter social distancing rule and that those attending venues would have to do so in groups of six or less.

Furthermore, mask mandates will be made compulsory unless people are seated and stationary and for the purposes of track and trace, venues will have to take the contact details of their customers.

Large events have also been cancelled and a maximum of 50 people have been permitted to gather outside and 30 inside. Those attending weddings and funerals would be obligated to take lateral flow tests beforehand.

The Welsh first minister accused the London government of being in a “state of paralysis” in its failure to act decisively over the spread of the omicron variant.

“They are paralysed by their internal divisions and are unable to act on it. When we see the evidence, and we’re told about the actions we can take to protect people, we will take them. I think there’s a real contrast with the paralysis of a UK government simply unable to act,” Drakeford said.

- Vaccines recommended for vulnerable children

The UK’s vaccines watchdog on Wednesday recommended that coronavirus vaccines be extended to vulnerable children aged 5-11 in an effort to increase immunity in light of the omicron spread.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), however, will only recommend vaccines for around 300,000 young children. This decision will cover those in a clinical risk group and a household without an individual of any age who is immunosuppressed and will offer two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine two months apart.

Despite its rapid rise across the world, studies conducted in the UK have shown that the omicron wave appears to be milder and that fewer people are in need of hospital treatment when compared to other variants.

The study, which was conducted in Scotland, had been tracking the number of hospitalizations and found that omicron behaved in the same manner as the delta variant where 47 hospitalizations were expected. With omicron, however, there are only 15 hospitalizations.

Despite what has been called a “qualified good news story” by Dr. Jim McMenamin, the director of Public Health Scotland, he also cautioned against rushing to conclusions when deciding how to act in response to the new mutation.

The study was conducted on a few cases and contained even fewer people who were aged 65 and over.

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