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Whitty pleads with Britons 'get jabbed' over Omicron infection threat 'New risk coming!'

Chris Whitty encourages public to get vaccinated

Chris Whitty urged Britons who have yet to take up the offer to be jabbed to arrange to get their coronavirus vaccine immediately. Prof Whitty insisted the threat posed by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is concerning after two cases were reported in the UK. The new variant has raised fears across the world of a new wave of coronavirus and sparked the immediate reaction of the UK Government to contain the risks.

In a last-minute press conference on Saturday, Prof Whitty said the number of coronavirus cases at the moment remains "flat" but the potential for new rises remains.

He said: "Looking at the vaccination programme, we're continuing to see increases in the number of people coming forward for their first vaccine and also people coming forward for their second vaccine as part of their primary course.

"That is absolutely essential. Anybody who is not vaccinated, can I please strongly encourage you to do so. 

"The rates are already very high with Delta and we now have this new risk coming through."

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Chris Whitty urged Britons to get jabbed immediately as Omicron cases are reported in the UK (Image: BBC)

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Coronavirus cases in the UK surpassed 10 million this week (Image: COBR)

Prof Whitty reassured vaccines may be sufficient to prevent severe disease and death if the Omicron variant is contracted.

But he did concede there is a reasonable chance there could be some degree of vaccine escape with the Omicron variant.

The World Health Organization dubbed Omicron a "variant of concern" amid concerns it could potentially be more contagious than previous variants of the disease.

Experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other coronavirus strains.

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Coronavirus: UK cases surpass ten million during pandemic

Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Saturday two cases of the Omicron variant have now been recorded in the UK.

Mr Sajid said: "Late last night I was contacted by the UK Health Security Agency.

"I was informed that they have detected two cases of this new variant, Omicron, in the United Kingdom."

Essex County Council later confirmed on Twitter that there was a single case identified in Brentwood in the southeastern region of England.

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Prof Whitty said the number of cases remains mostly "flat" but potential for rises is still there (Image: SKY NEWS)

The council said it was linked to a single case from Nottingham in central England involving travel to South Africa.

They said: "We are working with regional and local public health officers who are assessing the situation. All close contacts of these individuals will be followed up and requested to isolate and get tested."

Commenting on two cases of the Omicron Covid variant being detected in the UK, Professor of Experimental Medicine Peter Openshaw said: "There is no need to get alarmed, but we do need to be prepared and to take rapid action.

"It is better to act fast but be prepared to change as new information comes in.

"Travel restrictions may slow the rate of growth and buy time to establish the important facts about severity, immune evasion, transmission and susceptibility to treatment and prevention."

"With or without this new variant, Delta is already a crisis in many parts of Europe and still causing a lot of illness and death in the UK, especially in those not vaccinated or in those who do not respond to vaccines."