Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that there will be increased restrictions and rules regarding the wearing of face coverings on public transport and in shops as the UK reacts to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The variant, which was discovered in South Africa on November 24, has now arrived in the UK with two cases having been discovered to today in Chelmsford and Nottingham.
Those two cases have been confirmed to be linked.
As well as the stepping up of rules on face coverings, the Prime Minister announced that all travellers entering the UK must isolate until a negative PCR test is performed, and must take a PCR test after two days.
Anyone found to have been in contact with someone positive for the Omicron variant must isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.
Johnson, speaking from Downing Street, said that the new variant ‘spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who have been double vaccinated’.
He also said that the government will not stop people from travelling, although several South African countries were recently placed onto the UK’s red travel list, but announced that every new arrival must take a test on their second day in the country and isolate until a negative test is returned.
The PM added that he believes closing borders and stopping travel can only slow down the spread of the variant, but not stop it.
However, he did again state that he won’t be stopping people to travel.
He also announced that booster jabs will be stepped up, making more people eligible for their third jab, as well as shortening down the gap between the second dose and the booster for many people.
The measures are set to be reviewed in three weeks’ time, which would be very close to Christmas.
On the subject of the effectiveness of vaccines against the Omicron variant, Johnson said: "We don't know how effective our vaccines will be,
"But we have good reasons to believe they will provide at least some measure of protection."
On face coverings, Johnson then said: “We’re looking at retail and transport to go back to a position where you have to wear them.
He added that the Health Secretary Sajid Javid would set out the measures fully at a later date.