The claims about the UK’s first Omicron death

Government urged to release more information amid speculation about whether the Covid victim was vaccinated

A member of staff climbs into an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital, London
(Image credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

The government is under pressure to reveal the circumstances surrounding the country’s first Omicron death following claims that the patient was unvaccinated.

The unnamed man’s stepson, who gave his name only as John, told LBC radio yesterday that his stepfather was in his early 70s and was “fit and healthy”, but “wasn’t vaccinated at all” against Covid-19 after being taken in by claims by “conspiracy theories”.

“He was a recluse to be honest with you, he never went out, he had his shopping brought to him,” John told presenter Nick Ferrari during a phone interview. “The only place he went to was the bin outside the block he lived in and the postbox.”

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John said that his sister and his stepfather – the first person in the world confirmed to have died from the Omicron variant – had argued in October about getting vaccinated. “He thought it was a conspiracy,” John continued. “He was an intelligent man, but it’s all these different things you are getting from online and different media things about, oh it’s not real.”

His stepfather had been “fit, he ate healthy, he didn’t smoke, he hadn’t drunk in 30 years near enough”, John said, adding: “Had he been vaccinated, he would probably still be here.”

NHS England, the Department for Health and Social Care and the UK Health Security Agency have all declined to provide details that might confirm the claims by the dead man’s stepson, on the grounds that they do not discuss “individual cases”.

This official stance, said the Daily Mail, is in “stark contrast to the approach last year”, when the government revealed that the first person in the UK to lose their life to Covid was “an older patient who had underlying health conditions”.

Critics of the current approach have argued that “it could help calm fears about Omicron if the government made it clear that the only person who had died was someone who had not been vaccinated”, the paper added.

Cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora, a leading critic of the government’s pandemic response, said that by failing to provide further information about the Omicron death, the authorities risked “unnecessarily alarming” the public.

“I suspect that it’s a death, which is unfortunate, but is due to something else, and it just happens to be Covid positive,” he added. “That’s why they’re not making a big noise about them being vaccinated or not.”

The national vaccination campaign has been revved up in response to Omicron, which England’s Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty has warned is spreading at a “phenomenal rate”.

Amid reports that the new variant is producing “milder symptoms” than previous strains, Whitty told a Downing Street news conference this week that even “If the rate of hospitalisation were to halve but you’re doubling every two days, in two days you’re back to where you were before you actually had the hospitalisation”.

“That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some degree of slightly milder disease, that is possible,” he said. “But I just think there’s a danger people have over-interpreted this to say, this is not a problem and what are we worrying about?”

Asked for further details about the first Omicron fatality, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said that “when it comes to individual deaths there is a right to patient confidentiality so we are limited in what we can say”.

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