Mask-wearing back for shops and transport and PCR tests for arrivals, PM announces

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People are again being ordered to wear masks in shops and on public transport in response to the arrival of the Omicron edition in England.

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Boris Johnson also announced that contacts of Omicron cases would have to be isolated for 10 days until the threat from its mutation was detected – and the return of Day 2 PCR tests for all international arrivals.

Describing the measures as “temporary and precautionary”, he told a news conference: “We will review them in 3 weeks.”


Asked why he is not implementing the government’s full ‘Plan B’ – including a vaccine passport and working from home – Mr Johnson insisted the UK was still “in the pandemic better than ever”. Very, very strong position”.

Omicron may be tackled by efforts to “slow down seeding with the strict measures we are taking at the border” – while more booster jabs are delivered, to increase safety.

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But he didn’t rule out further festive restrictions, saying only: “I’m sure this Christmas will be much better than last Christmas. It’ll be for the moment.”

Speaking after the first two Omicron cases were found – in Essex and Nottingham – Mr Johnson also revealed steps to increase booster jabs to under-40s and reduce the six-week gap between a second jab and a booster.

The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) has been asked to consider the changes – in a clear indication that ministers want them to be – although the prime minister called it “an independent body”.

“Obviously we hope we get some answers for everyone as soon as possible,” he said at a Downing Street press conference.

Mr Johnson also dismissed criticism that the spread of the new version in southern Africa showed the foolishness of rich countries in failing to provide vaccines to poor countries.

He claimed that the problem in such countries is “not supply, but hesitation and lack of take-up”, arguing that the UK has been a “leader” in the world in sharing jobs.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned the Omicron version of “a reasonable chance of surviving some types of vaccine” but said the jabs should still provide protection against serious illness.


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