The UK has taken the first steps to attempt to slow the spread of the new variant, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirming that face coverings will once again be mandatory in shops and on public transport, as well as a number of other rules regarding quarantine for travellers and isolation for those who have contacted someone with the variant.
The variant was first observed in Botswana, and has been responsible for a large number of cases in South Africa, as scientists grapple with the fear that it may be resistant to vaccines or more contagious than other forms of the virus.
However, Dr Angelique Coetzee, the chair of the South African Medical Association, says that the symptoms of the Omicron variant are ‘extremely mild’.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Coetzee said that she first observed the variant in a man in his early 30s who had a headache and suffered with tiredness.
She said: “What we are seeing clinically in south Africa, and remember I’m at the epicentre – that’s where I’m practising – it’s extremely mild. For us, that’s mild cases.”
When pressed about whether the UK was ‘panicking unnecessarily’, she said: “I think you already have it there in your country and you’re not knowing it, and I would say, yes, at this stage I would say definitely.
“Two weeks from now maybe we will say something different.”
Boris Johnson confirmed the return of face coverings in shops and on public transport on Saturday, as well as mandatory PCR tests for all travellers arriving in the UK from abroad on the second day after arrival.
Anyone who tests positive will have to isolate for 10 days.
Today, backing up the PM, Sajid Javid said: “I hope this is something that we can remove within weeks.
“But I do think in terms of making progress, we want life to go back towards normal, but at this point in time, given what we know about this variant, and the expert advice that has been received, I think it is right to take some proportionate and balanced action.”
In addition to the extra rules detailed above, anyone who comes into contact with someone positive for the Omicron variant will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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