There have now been 42 Omicron cases in the UK with another 10 detected

Another ten cases of the Omicron variant have been found in the UK today, bringing the total to 42.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that seven of the cases were found in England while the other three were in Scotland.

It brings the total number of confirmed cases in England to 29 and the total in Scotland to 13.

In England, cases have been identified in the East Midlands, East of England, London, South East and North West.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, said: ‘We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.

‘Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second, third or booster jab without delay.

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‘A booster dose for everyone over 18 years is now recommended and will be available at a minimum of 3 months from your last primary course jab. Please take up this offer as soon as you are eligible to protect yourself, your families and your communities.

‘Please make sure to wear a mask in line with Government guidance, including on public transport and in shops, to help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.

‘It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing. That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.’

All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘This is an evolving situation and contact tracing and health protection teams are working to establish close contacts and any potential links between Omicron cases.

‘As such, it takes time to confirm any significant links between settings or cases and we will confirm any if identified.

‘As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament on Tuesday, it was already suspected that some degree of community transmission of this variant was taking place in Scotland.

‘However, there is no indication as yet that transmission of the new variant is either sustained or widespread.

‘Public Health Scotland is working hard to identify any and all cases of Omicron in Scotland as quickly as possible.

‘This enhanced surveillance gives us the best possible chance of identifying cases quickly, breaking transmission chains and containing spread while we learn more about this variant.’

The Scottish Government said that vaccination was the ‘most important line of defence’ and also urged people to comply ‘rigorously’ with all the protections currently in place to stem transmission.

Despite the emergence of the new variant, the government is still planning on scrapping free Covid-19 home tests.

At the moment, anyone can get a box of the swabs delivered to their door or from a pharmacy.

But the government said eventually ‘universal free provision… will end and individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost’.

When asked by Metro.co.uk, the Department for Health and Social Care would not clarify when the free testing policy would extend to.

Self-isolation laws will remain in place until March 24, 2022, unless repealed but the department did not give a guarantee free testing would last at least until then.

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