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Boris Johnson publicizes measures to comprise UK unfold of Omicron variant

Boris Johnson has introduced measures designed to comprise the unfold of the brand new Omicron coronavirus variant, because the UK’s chief medical officer warned there was an affordable probability of “vaccine escape”.

Anybody coming into the UK can be required to take a PCR check inside two days of their arrival and should self isolate till they obtain a destructive outcome, after the UK reported its first circumstances of the brand new variant.

Any contact of a suspected case of Omicron should isolate for 10 days, no matter their vaccination standing. Face masks can be made obligatory in retailers and on public transport, however not in pubs and eating places. All measures can be reviewed in three weeks.

Talking at a press convention in Downing Road, Professor Chris Whitty mentioned there was “an affordable probability that not less than there can be a point of vaccine escape with this variant”, the primary admission of this type from a UK well being official. This implies the variant could possibly evade vaccine safety, however Whitty insisted that it was seemingly vaccines would nonetheless assist forestall extreme sickness and demise.

The UK prime minister mentioned: “Our scientists are studying extra hour by hour, and it does seem that Omicron spreads very quickly, and could be unfold between people who find themselves double vaccinated.

“There may be additionally a really intensive mutation which suggests it diverges fairly considerably from earlier configurations of the virus, and as outcome, it would — not less than partially — scale back the safety of our vaccines over time.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has been requested to evaluation whether or not booster vaccines ought to be prolonged to under-40s and whether or not the hole between second and third doses ought to be decreased from six months.

Whereas scientists proceed to evaluate the brand new variant, the UK authorities has not but deployed its Covid-19 Plan B, which incorporates work at home steerage and Covid-19 passports for mass occasions.

Sajid Javid, UK well being secretary, mentioned there could be a surge in testing capability in affected areas and new journey restrictions, which from Sunday will apply to an additional 4 African nations.

The UK well being division mentioned one case had been recognized in Chelmsford and a second in Nottingham. They have been linked and related to journey to southern Africa, officers mentioned.

Outcomes of checks to gauge Omicron’s response to vaccines and immune methods should not anticipated for 2 to 3 weeks, scientists and officers mentioned.

The brand new UK measures have been launched because the variant continued to unfold in Europe and scientists raced to evaluate the brand new stage of danger.

Earlier on Saturday, the World Well being Group urged a restrained method to the variant to make sure that nations reporting circumstances weren’t penalised.

On Friday the WHO designated Omicron a “variant of concern”, skipping the intermediate “of curiosity” designation.

World journey has more and more been restricted since Thursday, with the US, the EU, Switzerland and the UK imposing restrictions on journeys to southern Africa and a number of other different nations the place the variant has been detected.

South African scientists are sending samples of the virus to biosecurity businesses worldwide.

In the meantime, there was additional proof that the brand new variant is seeding in Europe as the primary circumstances have been recognized in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, a day after a case was recognized in Belgium.

Authorities within the Netherlands have been investigating whether or not 61 individuals who examined optimistic for Covid-19 after arriving on two flights from South Africa on Friday had contracted the Omicron variant.

They’ve been positioned in seven-day resort isolation, based on Dutch well being authorities. “The optimistic check outcomes can be examined as quickly as doable to find out whether or not this issues the brand new worrisome variant,” the Dutch well being authority mentioned.

On Saturday evening the Danish well being ministry mentioned it suspected two circumstances of the Omicron variant have been detected in two travellers who had arrived within the nation from South Africa.

Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned the Omicron variant may already be within the US, though there have been no confirmed circumstances. He informed the broadcaster NBC earlier on Saturday that the brand new variant was regarding as a result of it “has numerous mutations” that probably made the virus extra contagious and extra transmissible.

Israel will shut its borders to foreigners for 2 weeks from Monday due to the Omicron variant, based on Reuters information company. The Center Jap nation has confirmed one case of the variant and has seven suspected circumstances.

Earlier on Sunday Australia mentioned it scientists have been investigating whether or not two individuals who examined optimistic for Covid-19 after flying from South Africa have been contaminated with the Omicron variant, a report from the Australian Broadcasting Company mentioned.

Omicron seems to be behind a big surge in circumstances in South Africa. Its heightened transmissibility has not but been confirmed, although the WHO has mentioned it seems to have a development benefit.

A few of its mutations have been beforehand related to immune escape. Any variant considerably extra transmissible than Delta, already extra contagious than the ancestral coronavirus, or in a position to pierce vaccine safety may significantly hamper the worldwide restoration from the pandemic.

Extra reporting by Oliver Barnes and Mehreen Khan

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