The Prime Minister warned the new Omicron variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, as he announced a strengthening of England’s rules – including mandatory face coverings, more travel testing and self isolation
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has announced new Covid rules will be introduced, after two cases of the “worst ever” variant were identified in the UK.
The Prime Minister warned the new variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, as he announced a strengthening of England’s rules at a Downing Street press conference, after the infections were identified in Nottingham and Brentwood in Essex.
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed the cases, which are both believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.
The individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious
The Government said more details would be announced “early next week”, would take effect “from next week” and all of the new measures would be temporary and reviewed after three weeks.
The changes announced by the PM are for England – though the Scottish government have confirmed they will apply in Scotland as well.
But here’s everything we know so far about the new rules being brought in to tackle the Omicron variant.
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Face masks will once again be mandatory in shops and on public transport.
The PM said the exact rules on face coverings will be set out soon.
But he told the press conference: “On face coverings, what we’re looking at is retail and transport, just going back to a position where you have to wear them in retail settings or on public transport.
“But the Health Secretary Saj (Javid) will be setting out more in the course of the next day or so.”
Number 10 has confirmed they will not be mandatory in any hospitality setting – such as pubs or restaurants.
Anyone who has come into contact with a person suspected of suffering from the Omicron variant must self-isolate at home for ten days, regardless of their vaccination status.
The Government said “targeted” testing and contact tracing was now underway in the areas near where the two cases had been confirmed.
And the Mirror understands ‘surge testing’ will be introduced in any location where cases of the new variant are found.
There’s no indication so far that the new variant is anywhere else in the UK, but there could be more cases among contacts, friends and family of the identified case.
Arrivals in the UK now need to take a PCR test – not just a cheaper lateral flow – within 48 hours of entering the UK.
They must isolate at home until the a negative test result comes back.
Meanwhile, Sajid Javid announced new additions to the travel “red list”.
As of 4am on Sunday 28 November South Africa, Botswana, Lesostho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola will be added to the list.
Six million booster jabs will be available in England alone over the next three weeks, and the Health Secretary has today asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to consider rapidly extending boosters, as well as reducing the gap between the second dose and booster.
But the JCVI is an independent body, so the government will have to wait for them to make a decision before making major changes, such as rolling out booster jabs to younger people.