Boris Johnson announces new Covid measures amid Omicron variant

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Compulsory mask wearing will be resumed and restrictions will be imposed on passengers

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NS

Auris Johnson has announced the resumption of masks and some travel restrictions in indoor spaces amid the arrival of Omicron Edition in the UK.

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The PM said anyone arriving in the UK would be asked to undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 on the second day and should self-isolate until they test negative.

He also confirmed the resumption of face masks on public transport and in shops, although they will not be required in hospitality places. Anyone in the UK who tests positive with a suspected case of the Omicron type will also need to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status.

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Mr Johnson said the government needed to take “targeted and proportionate measures” to stop the spread of the variant, which scientists believe may be more transmissible and vaccine resistant.

The new version B.1.1.1.529, first discovered in Botswana, has raised alarm among scientists because of its high number of mutations. Senior scientists have said that this is the worst strain so far during the pandemic.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: “We need to slow the spread of this variant in our country and buy time for our scientists to figure out what we are working on.

“We do not yet know exactly how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron, but we have good reasons to believe that they will provide at least some measure of protection.”

However, he reassured Britons that the Christmas period would be “much better” than last year, when swaths of the country were plunged into lockdown amid the spread of the alpha version.

Professor Chris Whitty said there was a “reasonable chance” that there would be “some degree of vaccine escape” with this variant – but stressed that more data would be needed for scientists to draw conclusions.

This comes after the first two cases of the variant were discovered in the UK on Saturday afternoon. Britain is now the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to report the presence of tensions.

Essex County Council said the cases, which are linked, are in Brentwood and Nottingham and those who have tested positive are self-isolating and contact tracing is being done.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “a real reminder that this pandemic is not over” as he urged people to get their vaccines, including boosters.

“We were concerned from the time we first identified this new variant,” Mr Javid told reporters.

“It’s a new version in depth and we need to know more about it but the fact that we now have these two cases in the United Kingdom means we need to take more measures and so I fixed it today.”

To contain the spread of the variant, ministers announced that Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola would face travel restrictions from Sunday.

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