Cases of the new covid variant of concern, Omicron, have been detected in the UK.
There are two confirmed cases of this new strain, one in Chelmsford, Essex, and another in Nottingham. The individuals who tested positive, and all members of their households, have been told to enter self-isolation.
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed the cases, which are both believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.
Sajid Javid says new variant “deeply concerning”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid ordered targeted testing in the affected areas and said Prime Minister Boris Johnson will “set out further measures” during a Downing Street press conference later today.
“We were concerned from the moment we first identified this new variant,” Mr Javid told reporters.
“It’s a deeply concerning new variant and we do need to learn more about it but the fact that we now have these two cases in the United Kingdom does mean we need to take further measures and that’s why I’ve set this out today.”
Will there be Covid restrictions ahead of Christmas?
Mr Javid did not say whether further restrictions could be added ahead of Christmas in light of the new strain, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated a “variant of concern”.
Instead, he said: “We’ve made a lot of progress, we all want to see that protected and if anyone’s sitting at home thinking what can I do? Get vaccinated.”
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “We will continue to work closely with the international community to quickly gather and analyse information on this variant to understand any possible increase in transmissibility or resistance to vaccines.”
The UK is the second European nation to have reported the presence of Omicron after Belgium said it had identified a single case on Friday.
Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola added to travel red list
Mr Javid said anyone who has travelled in the last 10 days to the 10 countries now on the red list, with Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola being added to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, they must self-isolate and take PCR tests.
Ministers said non-UK and Irish residents who have been in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England from 4am on Sunday.
Those who are permitted to return will be ordered to isolate in a Government-approved facility for 10 days.
South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe were added to the red list on Friday, and the UK imposed a ban on flights leaving from those nations.