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Health bosses in the South West have said there is a "very real chance" the NHS will face unsustainable pressure this month following the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant.
Their warning comes as the variant continues to spread quickly across the region.
The number of confirmed cases of the variant was 250 yesterday morning (December 15) but had risen to 627 by the afternoon. It is likely there are hundreds more cases which are unconfirmed.
Deputy Director of UK Health Security Agency(UKHSA) in the South West Dominic Mellon said cases of the new strain in the region are doubling every 2.5 to three days, suggesting this variant is more transmissible than any other previous one.
"It's rapid and it's frightening and it's going to get worse rather than better," he said.
It has led former chair of the health select committee and former Devon MP Sarah Wollaston to describe the situation as a "national emergency".
Now chair of integrated care in the county, she also called for more medically-trained volunteers to come forward to help vaccinate.
She has been volunteering herself, vaccinating walk-in patients at a practice in Exmouth.
"You can end up with very severe disease or long Covid", she said, urging people to take up the vaccine.
"Even if you've had it in the past, that's not going to protect you against the Omicron variant.
"Get vaccinated not just for yourself but to protect the people you live and your whole community."
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