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Health Secretary Sajid Javid (C) visiting to a pop-up vaccination site in west London in July. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. government is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine booster program in an attempt to avoid following other European countries in imposing restrictions to counter coronavirus surges, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that everyone over the age of 40 could get a booster shot from Monday.

The big picture: Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have in recent weeks implemented restrictions on citizens, as Western Europe faces a new wave of coronavirus infections.

What they're saying: "It's very sad to see cases rising, surging, in certain parts of Europe," Javid said during a Sky News interview Sunday.

  • "What’s made a real difference here in the U.K. is our booster program," Javid added.

By the numbers: 15 million people have had a third dose of the vaccine in the U.K., Javid said in a statement Sunday.

  • U.K. COVID-19 cases in the seven days to Sunday rose 9.4% compared to the previous week, but the coronavirus death toll and hospitalizations have both dropped, per Public Health England.
  • The total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test reported in this seven-day period stands at 1,029, down 5.9% compared to the previous week.
  • 6,087 people were hospitalized in the seven days to Sunday, down 4.7%.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
15 hours ago - Health

U.S. on the lookout for Omicron cases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Laboratories across the U.S. are on the lookout for the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, which officials have said will almost inevitably be detected here.

Why it matters: The world is on high alert as scientists race to understand if the variant could be a game-changer in the pandemic. Early detection, in theory, gives officials more time to understand its characteristics and respond.

Nov 30, 2021 - Health

FDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill

The Merck Cherokee Plant in Riverside, Pa. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An FDA advisory panel on Tuesday voted 13-10 to endorse an antiviral pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat adults at high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, despite concerns over its effectiveness and safety.

Why it matters: Oral antiviral drugs designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be key pandemic-fighting tools, if proven effective, especially as new variants emerge. If authorized, the Merck drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first treatment of its kind to be made available in the U.S.

12 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure.