The spread of Omicron throughout the UK is “something we’ve never seen before”, the health secretary has said.
Sajid Javid said the coronavirus variant is “spreading at a phenomenal rate”. Infections are believed to be doubling every two to three days and 10 people with Omicron are confirmed to be in hospital.
Speaking to MPs on Monday afternoon, Javid said the NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron.
He said there are now 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, although the expected number is likely to be close. to around 200,000.
Watch: Sajid Javid says Omicron spreading at 'phenomenal' rate
He added: “While Omicron represents over 20% of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44% in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours
On Sunday, Boris Johnson announced that the booster jab programme was being extended to all adults against what he called a “tidal wave of infection”.
He confirmed on Monday that at least one person has been confirmed to have died with the Omicron variant in the UK.
But he stressed that a delay between infection, admission to hospital and death should be expected.
The government is urging as many adults as possible to get boosted, and is aiming to offer everyone a vaccination by the end of the month.
The health secretary said: “Two doses are not enough but three doses provide excellent protection against symptomatic infection.”
He said the booster programme is being extended "to a level we've never seen before”.
Some vaccination centres will be open for 24 hours, he said, in an effort to give boosters to one million people per day.
Long queues outside vaccination centres were reported across England on Monday after the prime minister made his statement to the nation about the acceleration of the booster programme.
Javid said it would be “completely unfair” to suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine was not as good as once thought.
Asked on Sky News if it was the booster — either a Pfizer or Moderna jab — that is what is offering the protection against Omicron, he said: “AstraZeneca has played a phenomenal role in protecting our country.
“The difference now is… this variant, and different types of vaccines will react in different ways.
“But whether it’s AstraZeneca you had for your first two doses or its Pfizer or Moderna, you still need a booster shot to be protected against this new variant.”
He insisted it “should not be the case” that people die because they can’t get treatment on the NHS during the booster drive.
Javid told Times Radio there will be “some appointments and some surgical procedures” that are “pushed into the start of the new year” while vaccinations are ramped up.
But he said there will still be a focus on “urgent need”.
The warnings came as guidelines urging people to return to working from home if possible returned on Monday.
From Tuesday, all double jabbed people will need to take daily tests for seven days if they come into contact with someone with COVID.
Watch: Boris Johnson sets booster target in face of Omicron 'tidal wave'