Omicron variant latest – New covid rules REVEALED as UK cases of scary new strain triple 'due to community transmission'

THE number of Omicron infections in the UK has now TRIPLED due to community transmission as England announced new Covid rules today.

A number of new measures are being brought into force from tomorrow morning as cases of the Covid strain begin to climb.

All people arriving in England from Tuesday will need to have a PCR test on or before day two after they land.

Face coverings will be mandatory on public transport and in shops and other settings including banks, post offices and hairdressers from 4am tomorrow morning – but the rule does not apply to pubs and restaurants..

Meanwhile close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status. Isolation rules will also return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test for Covid-19.

It comes as Scotland today confirmed another six new cases of the variant – with Nicola Sturgeon suggesting they could have been transmitted within the country.

She said: "At this stage we know that not all of them have any recent travel history to or known links with others who have travelled to the countries in southern Africa where the variant was originally detected. This suggests that there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland."

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Joseph Gamp

    All over-18s to be offered Covid booster jab

    All people aged 18 and over are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant.

    Millions more people in the UK will become eligible for a third booster dose after early evidence suggested that higher antibody levels may protect better against the variant.

    The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a booster dose, in order of descending age groups, to increase their level of protection. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.

    Booster doses should be given no sooner than three months after people have had their second dose of an original vaccine – shaving three months off the current six-month wait, according to the JCVI.

    In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

  • Joseph Gamp

    TUI says Brits can reschedule for free if travelling before December 21

    Travel company TUI said on Monday all UK customers due to travel before Dec. 21 would be able to change to another date for free if they chose to, in light of new travel curbs to contain the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

    The United Kingdom has restricted travel from southern Africa. The variant was first detected in South Africa last week.

    TUI has around 1,600 travel agencies and online portals, five airlines, over 400 hotels, 15 cruise liners in major holiday destinations around the globe.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Sturgeon 'hopes' variant will not prevent people from enjoying a 'normal' Christmas

    Scotland's First Minister said she "fervently hopes" the Omicron variant will not prevent people having a normal Christmas with family and is not asking people to change festive plans.

    Questioned if people should put their plans on hold or develop contingencies, she said: "I'm not asking anybody today to put plans on hold", but added people would factor contingencies into "all sorts of plans".

    Speaking at a Scottish Government briefing on the new coronavirus variant as six cases were confirmed north of the border, she said the Scottish Government will keep people updated on any changes to its advice as more is learned about Omicron.

    She said: "I'm not asking you to change your plans. I know it's three weeks to Christmas and none of us, including me, wanted to be in a position where I'm standing here again talking about a new variant that is posing risks. If any of our advice changes it's important that we do that in a proper way and we communicate it in a proper way.

    "Individuals, humans beings, will factor in contingencies into all sorts of plans they make and I'm sure there will be many who will be thinking about 'if X happened what will I do?', instead of what they were planning to do.

    "I can't make that decision for every individual across the country… What I am going to try to do is tell you as much as we know about what we're learning about this variant and to tell you as, and when, and if – because it is an if just now – that changes any of the advice that we are giving so that the decisions people are making can be made in the most informed way possible. And I think that's the only way really to proceed right now.

    "Standing here right now I still hope, really fervently hope, to be having a normal Christmas with my family. Can I say that in a 100% sense? No, but that's what I hope and I think that's what we should be all be hopeful of as we learn more about this variant."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Top medical chief calls for further face covering rules

    Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of council at the BMA, also called for further mask-wearing.

    He told Good Morning Britain: "What we believe is that there should be mask-wearing in all settings which are enclosed and indoors.

    "Now clearly, that doesn't apply to people who are eating out, but it should apply to staff, for example, in restaurants and bars so that when you are close to a customer, when you're in direct line of a customer, maybe a few feet away, and you're speaking perhaps loudly, you reduce the chance of infecting others.

    "This isn't just about the public, it's also about staff and employers as well, because if they have staff who become infected, staff who are ill and self-isolating, that will also affect the economy.

    "So there is a reason for doing this for both customers and employers."

  • Joseph Gamp

    UK set to announce expansion of Covid booster vaccine programme

    UK scientists are set to announce an expansion of the Covid-19 booster vaccine programme as nine cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed across the country.

    Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said experts have been looking at extending boosters to the under-40s and whether the time interval between the second and third doses of the vaccine should be cut.

    A decision is expected to be announced on Monday afternoon, at the same time as an urgent meeting is held of health ministers from the G7 group of nations to discuss the new Omicron variant.

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), preliminary evidence suggests Omicron carries a higher risk of reinfection though it is not yet clear how transmissible it is or whether it can evade vaccine protection.

    The UK now has nine confirmed cases of the variant after the Scottish government announced on Monday morning it had discovered four cases in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

  • Joseph Gamp

    No.10 rejects Sturgeon & Drakeford's calls to hold COBRA meeting

    Downing Street has rejected calls from the Scottish and Welsh first ministers for tougher travel restrictions and an urgent meeting to tackle the threat posed by the new Omicron variant.

    Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford joined forces to demand that the Prime Minister convene an urgent Cobra meeting to discuss taking a four-nations approach to issues such as border restrictions.

    While the Scottish Government has followed the new travel restrictions put in place by Westminster, requiring passengers coming into the UK to do a PCR test two days after arrival, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford wrote to Boris Johnson calling for people coming into the UK from overseas to be required to self isolate for eight days – and then do a second PCR test.

    It comes after six cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were identified in Scotland, in addition to three previously identified in England.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We would confirm any plans for a cobra meeting in the normal way. Currently, there isn't one scheduled.

    "We obviously speak to our devolved administration counterparts very regularly and we will continue to coordinate our response with them."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Cases in South Africa continue to climb rapidly

    In South Africa, the Omicron epicentre, cases have already soared several-fold since the alarm was raised about a new and deeply worrying variant.

    Some 3,220 new cases were reported on Saturday and 2,858 new cases on Sunday.

    On November 15, two weeks ago today, only 137 cases were reported in the nation, according to Worldometer.

    But by Sunday, they could be 100 times higher than that, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, a South African public health and infectious diseases specialist, told an online health ministry press briefing.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Graph: South Africa's sharp spike in cases

    The following graphic shows the trajectory of Covid cases over the past two weeks in South Africa.

    One of the country's epidemiologists, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, says he expects cases to reach 10,000 by the end of this week

  • Joseph Gamp

    First Minister urges all travellers to isolate for two days upon arrival in Scotland

    Nicola Sturgeon has urged all travellers to isolate for at least two days after arriving in Scotland until they get a negative PCR test, following the discovery of the Omicron strain of coronavirus.

    Calling for the public to "redouble our efforts" to tackle the virus, the SNP leader said: "We are asking all travellers – no matter where they are travelling from – to isolate until they get a negative result from a PCR test that they must do on day 2 after their arrival.

    "We are also asking close contacts of any confirmed cases of Omicron to isolate.

    "That none of this was even contemplated just a few days ago, is a reminder of how fast this virus can move and change."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Sturgeon 'won't shy away from difficult decisions'

    Ms Sturgeon pledged to not "shy away" from difficult decisions following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

    The Scottish First Minister told the SNP conference: "While I still hope it will not be necessary, if difficult decisions need to be made to keep us safe, we will not shy away from them.

    "Steering the country through this winter is my priority. It is my duty.

    "But no government can fight a virus alone, we all need to play our part.

    "That was true before the detection of Omicron, and it is even more so now."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Poland to announce new restrictions

    Poland will announce new restrictions on Monday to protect the country against the Omicron variant of COVID-19, its prime minister said.

    Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference: "We will present some additional restrictions today so that it is possible to protect ourselves better from those countries where this virus is,"

  • Joseph Gamp

    Calls for more decisive and stronger face coverings advice

    Ministers have been urged to take a firmer stance on mask-wearing in pubs and restaurants amid rising concern that the Omicron variant will disrupt Christmas festivities.

    Face coverings become compulsory again on public transport and in shops from Tuesday and teachers and pupils in Year 7 and above are now being "strongly advised" to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.

    Department for Education guidance also states that face coverings should be worn by university students and staff in communal spaces and corridors.

    But some experts suggested the advice is not strong enough and have questioned why people should wear a face covering on a train or in a shop but not in a pub.

    Labour said that people should be wearing face coverings at indoor hospitality venues.

    And the British Medical Association (BMA) said that staff in pubs and restaurants should be required to wear face coverings when serving customers.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Sturgeon and Drakeford call for urgent COBRA meeting with PM

    Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford have called for urgent talks with the Prime Minister over the new Covid-19 variant.

    In a letter to Boris Johnson, they called for tougher restrictions and confirmation of funding to respond to the situation.

    The letter says: "The emergence of Omicron poses a potential threat to the UK.

    "It is clear that the strain is already here and that it appears highly transmissible.

    "We need to work collectively – and effectively – as Four Nations to take all reasonable steps to control the ingress of the virus to the country and then to limit its spread.

    "We are clear that a four-nations approach to issues such as border restrictions is the most effective approach. This requires that a meeting of the Cobra committee be held as soon as possible."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Sturgeon says COP26 unlikely to be linked to Scotland's Omicron cases

    Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday it was unlikely but not impossible that six cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 found in the country were linked to the COP26 conference held earlier this month in Glasgow.

    "We have no information right now that any of these cases are related to COP," Sturgeon told a news conference.

    "If you consider the timelines of COP, it is not impossible, but it's perhaps also not probable that there are connections to COP."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Precautionary measures ahead of December 18 review

    Boris Johnson on Saturday stressed that the action taken on borders, masks and isolation was precautionary ahead of the December 18 review.

    He added: “At that point we should have much greater information about the continuing effectiveness of vaccines.

    “I very much hope that we will find that we continue to be in a strong position, and we can lift these measures again.

    “But right now this is the responsible course of action, to slow down this new variant, and to maximise our defences, so we protect the gains we have worked so hard for and so that we can continue to save lives.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    New travel rules 'completely ineffective'

    Tougher Covid-19 restrictions on international travel have been "completely ineffective in the past", according to the former boss of British Airways' parent company.

    Ex-IAG chief executive Willie Walsh described the reintroduction of tighter quarantine and testing regulations due to concern over the Omicron variant of coronavirus as a "knee-jerk decision" which imposes "huge hardship" on travellers.

    From 4am on Tuesday fully-vaccinated people entering the UK will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test taken on the second day after they arrive.

    The tests must be bought from the private sector, typically costing around £55.

    Previously fully-vaccinated travellers were only required to take a cheaper lateral flow test, and did not need to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.

    People who are unvaccinated will continue to need one pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, and must quarantine for 10 days.

  • Joseph Gamp

    'Good cause to be concerned about Omicron'

    Professor Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advising Government, told Sky News there was "good cause to be concerned" about Omicron.

    He said it "makes sense to try and hold it back" though it will be "impossible to stop it spreading around the world if it is much more infectious than the Delta variant".

    He said the most important thing people in the UK could do was to have vaccines and take measures such as wearing masks.

    Asked if people should be told to wear masks in pubs and restaurants, he said: "If you are in a small, poorly ventilated enclosed space, it makes sense to wear a mask. Clearly when you are drinking and eating it's not possible to do that but if you're moving around, then absolutely.

    "We know that infection happens in closed spaces indoors and of course, as it gets colder, people are more likely to be indoors and they're less likely to have the windows open.

    "So if you're going to wear masks in shops, it makes sense to wear them in other places as well."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Essex Omicron variant case is 'doing well'

    A person infected with the Omicron variant in Essex is "well" and isolating with their family, the region's top public health official has said.

    Essex director of public health Dr Michael Gogarty told BBC Breakfast: "Most importantly with the confirmed case is that they are well, they are isolating with their family.

    "When I say that they are well, I mean they are not seriously ill.

    "They have some symptoms but they do not require hospitalisation."

  • Joseph Gamp

    JCVI to give advice on speeding up vaccine booster shot rollout

    Millions more people could be offered booster jabs as advisers consider extending them to all adults under emergency measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

    A decision from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on expanding the programme and cutting the gap before a third dose could come as early as Monday.

    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.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Labour calls for sick pay for people self-isolating

    Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said ensuring people have sick pay when they have to self-isolate is "one of the most crucial things we can do" amid the rise of the Omicron variant, along with people wearing face coverings – "including the Prime Minister".

    She told BBC Breakfast: "If people have to self-isolate or go off sick they have to be given sick pay, it's one of the most crucial things we can do to ensure that everybody can do the right thing and protect people from this new variant.

    "The booster jab should be given as quickly as possible, we said five months, hopefully that will happen now, and there should be ventilation in schools.

    "People should be wearing masks, including the Prime Minister when he's visiting public spaces indoors.

    "The G7 was very clear in its commitment to rolling out the vaccines across the globe and we've not met those targets.

    "We've seen that there's no point in vaccinating Britain if the rest of the world is not given the vaccines as well."

  • Joseph Gamp

    'Health service is going to be concerned'

    Asked whether the NHS is concerned about the new variant of the virus which causes Covid-19, Richard Murray, director of The King's Fund think tank, told Times Radio: "Of course the health service is going to be concerned.

    "It has come through two major waves of Covid and we are gong to discuss how you recover from this – how you deal with a tired workforce and lengthy delays for hospital, but also of course general practice and other services like mental health.

    "So this news is not welcome.

    "Of course what we don't know yet is what Omicron will do but this is certainly not good news for the health service."

    He added that it would be a "long march back" to get services back to "where we want them to be".

  • Joseph Gamp

    Six cases of Omicron identified in Scotland

    Six cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish government said on Monday.

    It added that public health officials were working to establish the circumstances of the cases.

    "Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases," Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said.

    "This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks."

  • Milica Cosic

    Christmas will be ‘great’ 

    BRITAIN is "nowhere near" full lockdown and Christmas will be "great" despite panic over the Omicron variant, Sajid Javid has insisted

    Two cases of the new super strain were confirmed yesterday – sparking fears the UK could be plunged back into lockdown over the festive season.

    But Health Secretary Mr Javid has said "we're nowhere near" reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat coronavirus.

    He told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday: "We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health.

    "So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we're not there yet, we're nowhere near that."

    He added that people should plan for Christmas as "normal".

  • Milica Cosic

    December 18 review

    Mr Johnson stressed that the action on borders, masks and isolation was precautionary ahead of the December 18 review.

    He added: “At that point we should have much greater information about the continuing effectiveness of vaccines.

    “I very much hope that we will find that we continue to be in a strong position, and we can lift these measures again.

    “But right now this is the responsible course of action, to slow down this new variant, and to maximise our defences, so we protect the gains we have worked so hard for and so that we can continue to save lives.”

  • Milica Cosic

    'We will never defeat Covid'

    Speaking to Sky's Trevor Philips on Sunday Mr Javid also admitted "we will never defeat" Covid.

    He has also asked Government vaccine advisers the JCVI to broaden the booster programme, which is currently open to all over-40s.

    When asked how mandatory mask-wearing will be enforced, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I do think people will take this more seriously".

    Source: Read Full Article