Britain s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference in London s Downing Street, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, after ministers met to consider imposing new restrictions in response to rising cases and the spread of the omicron variant. AP
Johnson said it was time to impose stricter measures to prevent a spike of hospitalizations and deaths as the new coronavirus variant spreads rapidly in the community.
``It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,'' he said in a press conference. ``Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days.''
Johnson said that 568 cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed across the UK, and ``the true number is certain to be much higher.''
He said beginning next Monday, people should work from home if possible. Starting on Friday, the legal requirement to wear a face mask will be widened to most indoor public places in England, including cinemas. Next week, having a COVID-19 pass showing that you have had both vaccine doses will be mandatory to enter nightclubs and places with large crowds.
Overall, the British government reported another 51,342 confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 in the UK as of Wednesday, with 161 more people dying.
The announcement came as Johnson and his government faced increasing pressure to explain reports that Downing Street staff enjoyed a Christmas party that breached the country's coronavirus rules last year when people were banned from holding most social gatherings. Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was ``furious'' about the situation.
The revelations have angered many in Britain, with critics saying they heavily undermine the authority of Johnson's Conservative government in imposing virus restrictions.