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COVID-19 cases hit new record; UK’s Johnson urges caution


COVID-19 cases hit new record; UK’s Johnson urges caution
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (BBC)

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London – Prime minister Boris Johnson and England’s chief medical officer have urged the public to be cautious if they socialise before Christmas, amid record United Kingdom coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Boris Johnson said he was not shutting pubs and restaurants but advised people to “think carefully before you go”.

Prof. Chris Whitty went even further than the PM, urging the public not to “mix with people you don’t have to”.

He warned more COVID-19 records would be broken as the Omicron variant surges.

The United Kingdom recorded 78 610 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday – the highest daily number reported since the start of the pandemic.

Business groups and Labour said there needed to be more support for industries hit by a fall in confidence during the Omicron wave.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will speak to hospitality industry representatives later to “understand their concerns”, the government said.

Whitty, speaking alongside the prime minister, said the country was experiencing “two epidemics on top of one another”, one driven by the “very rapidly growing” Omicron and the other by the Delta variant.

He said Omicron was “moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace” and that it would only be a short time until the UK saw “very large numbers” of infections.

“I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up,” he said.

Whitty said key data was still needed on hospitalisations, severe disease and deaths from Omicron. But he warned: “All the things that we do know [about Omicron] are bad.”

As a result, he told the public “don’t mix with people you don’t have to” and urged them to prioritise events and celebrations “that really matter to them”.

“Because otherwise the risk of someone getting infected at something that doesn’t really matter to them – and then not being able to do the things that matter to them – obviously goes up.”

Whitty also said: “I think there’s a high chance that my original Christmas plans with family are going to be interrupted.”

Johnson said the public were showing a “general instinct to be more cautious”. (BBC)