UK Covid cases hit record high as Chris Whitty warns of worse to come

The UK can expect several more weeks where Covid cases hit a record high, England’s chief medical officer has warned, as Omicron continues its exponential rise across the country.

Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street briefing there were “two epidemics on top of one another” as the UK recorded 78,610 new cases of coronavirus, including cases of the new variant.

He said: “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.

“What we’ve got is two epidemics on top of one another – an existing Delta epidemic, roughly flat, and a very rapidly growing Omicron epidemic on top of it.”

Prof Whitty said the Government had to choose between “really unpalatable options”, adding that there was no clear data yet on severe disease and deaths from Omicron with two jabs, and what the picture was for those who have had boosters.

He said: “I think what most people are doing – and I think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that mean a lot to them and, to prioritise those ones, de-prioritising ones that mean much less to them.”

He said he “strongly encouraged” that people take lateral flow tests before meeting up and ensuring there was good ventilation.

In the same briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to have their booster vaccines as he said a “great national fightback has begun” against Omicron.

He insisted the Government’s Plan B was the right thing to do, adding that boosters also “provide an excellent level of protection”.

He added: “We think that, given the balance of risks and the balance of continuing uncertainties about Omicron, this is the right approach to take.. to do these things at once.

“The progress we are making with the booster is vital… we really are boosting huge numbers of people now.”

He said over 90% of people aged 75 to 79-year-olds had been given a booster, adding it was those groups that “provide the bulk of those who are sadly going to die from Covid”.

Earlier he said: “While hospital admissions are going up nationwide, we’re starting to see admissions coming down among some of the more vulnerable older age groups where we’ve already got those boosters in arms.”

He added: “People have responded with an amazing spirit of duty and obligation to others and I want to say that each and every one of you who rolls up your sleeve to get jabbed is helping this national effort.”