Covid: First people in UK hospitalised with Omicron variant, Nadhim Zahawi confirms

Cabinet Minister Nadhim Zahawi delivers a blunt warning to the unvaccinated

The first people in the UK have been hospitalised after catching the Omicron Covid variant, a cabinet minister has confirmed.

Nadhim Zahawi confirmed the admissions while warning that the variant is "so infectious, it will seek [unvaccinated people] out".

The education secretary and former vaccines minister said: "Omicron will find those who are unprotected and will infect them and that's what we want to avoid".

Mr Zahawi urged the public to therefore defend themselves with booster doses. From Monday, people aged 30 and over will be able to book a booster in England.

"This is going to be a national endeavour. We want to see everybody come forward," he said.

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The extension of the vaccine programme comes as scientists advising the government warned that restrictions tougher than Plan B - which comes into force in England on Monday - may be needed to prevent Omicron causing anywhere between 25,000 to 75,000 deaths in England over the next five months.

Mr Zahawi said of the Plan B restrictions: "I think they're proportionate, they are the right thing to do and they'll allow us to boost the nation".

More than 60 Conservative MPs are said to be against the imposition of Plan B, which could prove to be the largest rebellion of Boris Johnson's premiership.

On Friday, analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided “much lower” levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared with Delta. But the UKHSA said a booster dose gives around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron, as it urged people to have their boosters.

From Tuesday, double-jabbed people in England who are close contacts of Covid cases will be told to take lateral flow tests for seven days in a row.

This means fully-vaccinated close contacts of those who test positive will no longer have to isolate for 10 days.

Unvaccinated adults must continue to self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of someone with Covid-19.