health

Vaccine experts to announce decision on booster rollout amid Omicron concerns



T

he UK’s advisory body on vaccines is expected to announce as soon as Monday whether it will approve an expansion of the Covid booster vaccine amid concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.

The decision, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), could see the time cut between second and third jabs and the programme extended to a wider age group. Currently those over 40 who have had a second dose five months ago can book, for a date six months after their second jab.

Teachers and pupils in Year 7 and above are now being “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.

They will become compulsory again on public transport and in shops from Tuesday, when isolation rules will return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test.

Close contacts of positive Omicron cases were being ordered to isolate for 10 days even if they have been vaccinated under emergency measures announced over the weekend.

Britain will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the variant first detected in South Africa amid concerns it could spread rapidly and partially evade existing jabs.

A third Omicron case was detected in the UK on Sunday, in a person with travel links to southern Africa who visited Westminster before leaving the country. It was thought the individual visited the wider borough and not Parliament.

Senior health official Dr Jenny Harries has said it is ‘very likely’ more Omicoron cases will be found in the UK this week (Toby Melville/PA) / PA Archive

The first two infections were identified in Nottingham and Essex, where officials were ordering PCR tests for customers of a KFC in Brentwood as far back as November 19.

Dr Jenny Harries the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, acknowledged it was “very likely” that further cases of Omicron would be discovered in the coming days.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid told families they should plan for a “great” Christmas “as normal” and insisted it was “nowhere near” time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance.



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