Omicron variant: The 3 things UK must do to avoid alarming spread as Covid rules tightened

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to move to his ‘Plan B’ this evening in an attempt to tackle the ongoing Covid pandemic in the UK, after the UK confirmed today that it has become the latest country to report cases of the new Omicron variant. Speaking at a briefing this evening, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said it is “inevitable” the Omicron variant will spread across the world over the next few days. 

The Prime Minister announced a swathe of “temporary and precautionary” measures including the return of compulsory mask wearing in shops and on public transport.

Mr Johnson said: “We need to take targeted and proportionate measures now as a precaution while we find out more.

“First we need to slow down the seeding of the variant in this country, we need to buy time for our scientists to understand exactly what we’re dealing with, and for us to get more people vaccinated, and above all to get more people boosted.”

These new rules will be reviewed in three weeks, alongside a “boost” to the booster campaign.

READ MORE: Omicron variant symptoms: How bad is omicron really?

He added the UK may need to “face-up” to the possibility of further action if the variant is very transmissible, issuing a worrying warning that we could see another lockdown if the situation deteriorates.

He said: “I think we’ll get more information on transmissibility, we’ll get more information on the ability of the vaccines to protect against the virus, but that’s going to take a little bit of time.

“At the moment, the models are more ‘if it spreads very fast, of course it’s going to spread very fast and go into a lot of places, and if it spreads less fast it’s going to do so less’.

“But if it’s very transmissible and does cause big escape, then clearly that’s a major issue we have to face up to. But that isn’t what we know at the moment, we need to get that information.”

Two cases of the new strain have been detected in the UK – one in Nottingham and the other in Brentwood, Essex.

The cases are believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa and both individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious

Seven other countries, including the UK, have now identified cases of the Omicron strain.

This afternoon the UK announced it had identified the first two cases of the variant, which are both linked with travel to South Africa.

Botswana, Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong have all confirmed concrete infections whilst Germany and Czech Republic have reported suspected cases.

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