“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 recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,” Johnson said as he visited a vaccination center in London. “So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.”

Long lines formed Monday at vaccination centers across England as people heeded the government’s call for all adults to get booster shots to protect themselves against the omicron variant, as the U.K. recorded its first death of a patient infected with omicron, AP reports.

In a televised announcement late Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everyone 18 and up would be offered a third vaccine dose by Dec. 31 — less than three weeks away, and a month earlier than the previous target.

Johnson said said boosters would “reinforce our wall of vaccine protection” against an anticipated “tidal wave of omicron.” The British government raised the country’s official coronavirus threat level on Sunday, warning that the rapid spread of omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services.”

U.K. health authorities say omicron cases are doubling every two to three days in Britain, and it will replace delta as the dominant coronavirus strain within days. But it’s unclear whether the expected wave of infections will inundate the country’s state-funded health care system.

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