UK confirms 1st Omicron death; Austria reopens to vaccinated

London, Dec 13 (EFE).- At least one death in the United Kingdom has been attributed to the Omicron coronavirus variant, which British prime minister Boris Johnson said Monday accounts for 40% of cases in London alone

“Here in the capital it probably represents about 40% of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to a vaccination clinic in west London.

The fatality is the first in the UK confirmed to have been caused by the new variant.

“Sadly Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” the prime minister said.

Johnson announced Monday that booster shots would be made available to everyone in England over 18 years of age who received the second dose of the vaccine at least three months earlier in a bid to stem the expected “tidal wave” of infections driven by Omicron.

An Oxford University study published on Monday found that current vaccines provide fewer antibodies to fight Omicron compared to previous variants, although it added that booster shots still increase immunity to Covid-19.

The research discovered that while no evidence has been found that Omicron poses greater risk of death or serious illness, “a substantial fall in neutralisation” was observed in people who had received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

“This will likely lead to increased breakthrough infections in previously infected or double vaccinated individuals, which could drive a further wave of infection,” the study said.

Meanwhile in Austria, which has been in lockdown for 20 days to curb infections, authorities reopened businesses and leisure venues such as theaters and museums, for fully vaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people, however, must remain at home and are only allowed to access shops that sell essential goods such as food or medicine.

The government is expected to introduce mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 next month. People who refuse to get inoculated could face fines of up to 3,600 euro.

Austria is the first country in the European Union to implement mandatory vaccination for the entire population, with the exception of pregnant women and children under 14 years of age.

With a vaccination rate of 68.5% of the population, the Alpine republic is lagging behind other Western European countries. EFE


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