Millions more people could be offered booster jabs as advisors consider expanding them to all adults as part of emergency measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
A decision by the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) on expanding the program and bridging the gap before the third dose could come as early as Monday.
Teachers and students in Year 7 and above are now “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.
They will become mandatory again in public transport and shops from Tuesday, with isolation rules returning to international arrivals until a negative PCR test is obtained.
Close contacts of positive Omicron cases were being ordered to isolate for 10 days even though they had been vaccinated as part of 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 over concerns it could spread rapidly and partially escape current jabs.
A third Omicron case was detected in Britain on Sunday, in which a man with travel links to southern Africa had visited Westminster before leaving the country. It was believed that the individual visited the wider city, not the Parliament.
The first two infections were identified in Nottingham and Essex, where officials were ordering PCR tests for KFC customers in Brentwood as of 19 November.
Dr Jenny Harris, chief executive of the UK Health Protection Agency, acknowledged that more cases of Omicron are “very likely” to emerge in the coming days.
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid told families they should plan for a “great” Christmas “as usual” and insisted it was “nowhere near” the time to follow social distancing rules and work from home. guidance can be resumed.
It was hoped that the new measures would take time for scientists to gain a greater understanding of omicrons as ministers gave notice to the NHS to deliver many more vaccines every day.
JCVI deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harden said increasing the age limit for boosters and reducing the gap between the second and third doses was “a sensible strategy”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House that adults aged 18 to 39 should expect that they will be offered “a third more time than before”.
The group was also considering whether children aged 12 to 15 should be given a second dose.
Whitehall sources had hoped a decision could come on Monday, but the JCVI’s announcement on Tuesday could not be ruled out.
Education Secretary Nadim Zahavi has recommended that staff, visitors and pupils aged 7 and over, in communal areas such as corridors, canteens and halls in schools, colleges and universities in England, should wear masks starting Monday.
Although the re-introduction of masks in shops and public transport in England would bring the country closer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, face coverings are not required in pubs and restaurants.
Mr Javid said it would be “irresponsible to give guarantees” during an ever-changing pandemic, but he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I think people should continue with their plans for Christmas as normal “I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”
With the government holding off on rolling out its Plan B to tackle Covid-19 this winter, Mr Javid downplayed any need to reintroduce social distancing rules or work-from-home guidance .
He warned of the “very heavy price” of additional sanctions, saying: “So, if someone were to make such decisions they would have to do so very carefully and we are not there yet, we are nowhere.”
Travelers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to undergo a PCR test from entry until the end of the second day and isolate until a negative test is received, while 10 southern African countries have been added to the red list.
Mr Javid acknowledged that passengers flying from southern Africa before adding 10 countries to the red list were not tested upon landing and could take public transport to go home.
“I think the pace at which we acted could not have been faster,” he told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, adding that those arrivals had been contacted and asked to be tested.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the bulk of the “temporary and precautionary” measures on Saturday, saying they would be reviewed in three weeks.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /