Expert warns new Covid strain WILL hit UK amid fears Brits won't follow restrictions

The Government has added six countries to the red list in response to the Omicron variant. Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe are now suspended.

A Government scientist has warned the new Coronavirus variant will hit the UK “at some point” amid rising fears that Brits will not follow Covid restrictions if introduced to slow down the spread of the virus.

Professor John Edmunds a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the Government will need to think about extending travel restrictions and introduce “local restrictions” in response to the variant.

Meanwhile Professor Chris Whitty said he fears Brits will not accept new lockdown restrictions after enduring almost two years of the pandemic.

This afternoon, the World Health Organisation named the new Covid-19 “variant of concern”, Omicron, and put it in the most serious category.

The Government is still resisting a move to Plan B measures amid rising Covid concerns – but Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned Bu “if we need to go further, we will”.



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Professor Edmunds from SAGE told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “We’re seeing cases cropping up elsewhere, in Israel now and in Belgium, that’s really very worrying.

“At some point we’re going to get this variant here in the UK, what are we going to do about it when we do get cases here?”

Prof Whitty said Brits had shown an “extraordinary” ability to “just accept” tough restrictions in order to “protect one another”.

But speaking to a panel at the Local Government Association he added: “My greatest worry at the moment is that people… if we need to do something more muscular at some point, whether it’s for the current new variant or at some later stage, can we still take people with us?”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has urged people to get their jabs this weekend to make sure their immunity levels are topped up



It was first reported to the WHO on Wednesday, from South Africa, and has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

Belgium was the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant, formerly known as B.1.1.529.

Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19, said it could take weeks to determine whether the vaccines can protect us from the Omicron variant.

He did slam the Government for introducing travel restriction so quickly after the world was notified about the variant.

“Most of the evidence that we’ve had over the years tells us that it’s really difficult to keep viruses and bacteria out of countries through border restrictions. It just doesn’t work,” he told Sky News.

The UK has suspended flights from six countries including South Africa


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And Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University told Times Radio’s Drive programme the variant is a result of the world being slow to get vaccines to Africa.

Speaking to Cathy Newman, he said: “We were pretty slow at moving on trying to get more people vaccinated, particularly in Africa. All the time we were busy… boosting six year olds and 12 year olds and 15 year olds, we were brewing up trouble in the developing world.

“And guess what’s happened, it’s come back to bite us”.

Boris Johnson has spoken to South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa after banning flights to the UK from South Africa.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “They discussed the challenges posed globally by the new Covid-19 variant and ways to work together to deal with it and reopen international travel.

“The leaders reaffirmed the close alliance between our nations, exemplified in the Just Energy Transition partnership agreed at Cop26, and they agreed to stay in close contact as we deal with the ongoing threat from the global pandemic.”

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