Britain on Wednesday recorded its highest number of confirmed new infections in COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and England’s health director has warned that the situation is likely to worsen as the omicron variant generates a new wave of cases during the Christmas holidays.

Professor Chris Whitty described the current situation as two epidemics in one: omicron infections are increasing rapidly and the country continues to grapple with the delta variant, which continues to cause large numbers of infections. Public health authorities foresee that, in a matter of days, the omicron will become the dominant variant in Britain. At the moment it already represents the majority of cases in London.

Britain tallied 78,610 new infections on Wednesday, surpassing the previous record in January by 16%. While scientists continue to study the risks posed by the highly contagious omicron variant, Witty said the public should prepare for a continued surge in numbers in the coming weeks.

“There are several things we don’t know about,” Whitty said. “But all the things we do know are negative, the main one being the speed with which it is transmitted. It is spreading at an absolutely phenomenal rate. ”

The comments were issued on a day when the British government put in place new regulations, ordering the mandatory use of masks in most closed environments in England and the mandatory presentation of the vaccination document or the negative result of a diagnostic test to enter. to nightclubs and large mass events.

Britain is also stepping up its national vaccination program with the aim of offering the booster dose to all adults by the end of December. The government said that in a few days it will open new mass vaccination centers in various sports stadiums in the country, including Wembley in London, which has a capacity for 90,000 people.

Whitty recommended that people restrict their social contacts, prioritizing only the most important ones.

“I fear that the number of omicron patients who will go to the National Health Service will increase, who will end up hospitalized and in intensive care units; we do not know the exact rates, but the numbers will be substantial, “he said. “This will start to become apparent, in my opinion, shortly after Christmas.”

Despite the spike in infections, the coronavirus-related death toll in Britain is much lower than last winter’s highest level. The country recorded 165 deaths on Wednesday, up from 1,820 on January 20.

Public health authorities attribute the decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths to widespread vaccination.

Meanwhile, Britain is moving ahead with a public inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday that Heather Hallett, a former appeals court judge, will preside over the inquiry, which will begin next spring.

“She brings a wealth of experience to this, and I know she shares my determination that the investigation forensically and thoroughly examine the government’s response to the pandemic,” Johnson said.

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