Authorities imposes new restrictions to struggle Omicron as first instances present in UK | Coronavirus

Boris Johnson has expressed “absolute confidence” that individuals would get pleasure from a greater Christmas this 12 months than final, regardless of re-imposing a spread of restrictions – together with obligatory mask-wearing – to fight the brand new extremely transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The prime minister tried to calm fears concerning the prospects of one other imminent lockdown on Saturday, hours after the primary two instances of the brand new variant have been reported within the UK, in Nottingham and Essex.

At a joint press convention flanked by the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, Johnson mentioned that individuals in England could be required to put on face masks once more on public transport and in retailers. Downing Road later confirmed that masks would change into obligatory in retailers and on public transport from “subsequent week” however “all hospitality settings might be exempt”. Masks are already obligatory in these settings in Wales and Scotland.

Johnson additionally mentioned that anybody coming into this nation from overseas must take a PCR take a look at by the top of the second day after arriving, and to self-isolate till they’d secured a unfavourable end result.

The prime minister mentioned folks weren’t going to be prevented from travelling to or getting back from abroad. He admitted that the restrictions on journey “sound powerful”, however insisted your complete package deal was “focused and applicable”, including “that’s the best way it’s bought to be”.

Requested if the federal government may have moved sooner to shut borders to guard the nation from the brand new variant, he mentioned motion had been taken as quickly as information of it had filtered by means of from southern Africa: “I actually don’t understand how we may’ve acted sooner. We bought the information out about it on Thursday and we put numerous southern African nations on the pink record yesterday, and a few extra at the moment.”

4 additional nations – Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola – have been added to a UK record dealing with flight bans that now contains 10 nations.

When requested how apprehensive folks ought to be, and whether or not they must change their Christmas plans, Johnson mentioned there was nonetheless a lot that was not identified concerning the new variant. However he was positive the UK was in a far stronger place than final 12 months due to the profitable vaccine and booster programmes.

On the prospects for Christmas, he mentioned he would stick with a fastidiously chosen type of phrases: “I’m fairly assured or completely assured that this Christmas goes to be higher than final Christmas. I believe I’ll stick to that,” he mentioned.

Over the festive interval final 12 months, plans to permit three households to combine for 5 days have been cancelled on the final minute. Ultimately, three households have been allowed to combine on Christmas Day itself in a lot of the nation, whereas in London and the south-east, the place instances have been increased,households weren’t allowed to combine indoors in any respect.

Vallance advised the press convention that whereas there have been some indications that the Omicron variant would possibly have the opportunity to withstand Covid vaccines, it was additionally doable that present vaccines and boosters “could also be adequate to stop folks happening to have extreme diseases and in some instances dying.”

Johnson mentioned the federal government would work to hurry up the virus booster programme over the following few weeks and that the central message to everybody was to get vaccinated as quickly as doable, after which have the booster when eligible.

Woman wearing a facemask on a train
Masks sporting has been made obligatory once more on public transport and in retailers. {Photograph}: Victoria Jones/PA

The brand new necessities to put on masks in retailers and on public transport – in addition to a brand new regime of testing for everybody arriving within the UK from overseas – might be reviewed in three weeks.

The primary two Omicron instances on this nation are believed to be related, and linked to journey in southern Africa. The people and their households have been ordered to self-isolate, and focused testing was being carried out in areas the place they’re thought to have been whereas infectious. The well being secretary, Sajid Javid, mentioned the brand new variant was “an actual reminder that this pandemic is way from over”.

Javid mentioned anybody who had travelled up to now 10 days to the ten nations now on the pink record, which additionally contains South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini (previously Swaziland), Zimbabwe and Namibia, should self-isolate and take PCR assessments.

The UK is the second European nation to have reported the presence of Omicron after Belgium mentioned it had recognized a single case on Friday. On Saturday night time, instances have been additionally confirmed in Germany and Italy. There was additionally concern within the Netherlands after 61 folks examined optimistic for Covid-19 after arriving on two flights from South Africa on Friday. Additional assessments have been beneath approach to decide if any of them had the Omicron variant.

Quite a few pharmaceutical companies have mentioned they’re working to adapt their vaccines in mild of the emergence of Omicron after the WHO warned that preliminary proof steered the variant has an elevated danger of reinfection and will unfold extra quickly than different strains. On Saturday Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed optimism that current vaccines could be efficient at defending towards critical illness brought on by the brand new Omicron variant. He additionally mentioned it was “extraordinarily unlikely” that it might trigger a “reboot” of the pandemic.
Pollard, who additionally chairs the federal government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, mentioned a brand new vaccine might be developed “very quickly” if required as a result of scientists now have a “well-oiled” course of.

He advised BBC Radio 4’s At this time programme that it might be weeks earlier than the seriousness might be judged extra exactly: “No less than from a speculative perspective, we now have some optimism that the vaccine ought to nonetheless work towards a brand new variant for critical illness however actually we have to wait a number of weeks to have that confirmed.”

The arrival of the brand new variant comes as ministers are making ready a collection of bulletins this week to clear the backlog of operations within the NHS brought on by Covid and to arrange it for the winter.

Ministers will an announce an “elective restoration plan” to deal with the large backlog of NHS care in England because the centrepiece of a “well being week” of bulletins which they hope will see them regain management of the narrative across the more and more fragile state of the well being service and social care.

It’s anticipated that sufferers might be advised they are going to be given fewer follow-up appointments after operations, and can as an alternative be inspired to make use of apps, phone and hospital trusts’ web sites to hunt a session with a specialist in the event that they really feel they want it. The plan is a part of a serious shift in the direction of what officers are calling “patient-activated healthcare” that can free area to deal with the backlog.

Underneath the plans, sufferers is also supplied the possibility to have their surgical procedure outdoors their dwelling space, in one other a part of the nation. Nevertheless, demand is more likely to be restricted by the supply of surgical capability and sufferers’ willingness to journey.

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