At least one person has died in the United Kingdom after contracting the Omicron coronavirus variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, the first publicly confirmed death globally from the swiftly spreading strain.
Since the first Omicron cases were detected on Nov. 27 in the United Kingdom, Johnson has imposed tougher restrictions and on Sunday cautioned that the variant could overcome the immune defences of those inoculated with two shots of vaccines.
“Sadly at least one patient has now been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” Johnson told reporters at a vaccination centre in London.
“So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus – I think that’s something we need to set on one side – and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population.”
The UK Health Security Agency said Omicron – first detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong in late November – can overcome the immunity of those who have had two shots of vaccines such as AstraZeneca (AZN.L) or Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N).
South Africa’s health ministry said it was unable to say with certainty if any of its COVID-19 deaths were caused by Omicron as deaths were not broken down by variant.