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The UK Buys Millions of Anti-COVID pills as Omicron Surges

The UK government announces it is buying millions of new COVID-19 treatment pills as the Omicron variant takes hold while cutting the isolation period for positive cases. The government said it had signed deals to buy 4.25 million courses of two new antiviral drugs: Pfizer’s Ritonavir and US rival Merck/MSD’s Molnupiravir, which will be available early next year.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this comes on top of government announcements in October of the procurement of several hundreds of thousands of doses and was hailed as a mammoth deal.  The UK has seen a surge in infections since Omicron became the dominant variant, with 90,629 cases reported yesterday.

The country is one of the most brutal hits in Europe, with a death toll of 147,433. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted calls to impose stricter virus restrictions over Christmas in England, unlike the devolved governments in other UK nations.

Those who have caught the virus but feel well can come out of self-isolation after seven days instead of 10, potentially allowing more to join family celebrations. NHS England said that this rule only applies to people who have taken two negative lateral flow tests. UK leaders were expected to announce new virus measures for the post-Christmas period. Significant New Year’s Eve events have already been canceled in London and Edinburgh.

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