UK hit with third Omicron Covid case as urgent testing being carried out to track variant

Boris Johnson delivers press conference on Omicron variant

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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is now attempting to track the virus by carrying out urgent testing in areas they visited when they were likely to have been infectious.

This includes Westminster in central London.

The person tested positive after travelling to Britain from southern Africa but they have since left the UK.

UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries warned that further cases are “very likely”.

She said: “Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread.

“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 focussed contact tracing.

“We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.

“It’s critical that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.

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

“Wear a mask in crowded places, including public transport and shops, to ensure we all help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.”

The first two infections of the Omicron variant, which originated in southern Africa, were reported in Chelmsford, Essex and Nottingham.

Just last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacted to the new variant by introducing new measures to control the spread of the virus.

He announced that face-coverings will again become mandatory in shops and public transport in England and all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected omicron case must isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status.

Anyone who enters the UK must also now take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self isolate until they have a negative result.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks.

The government has not yet moved to ‘Plan B’, which would involve a work from home order and vaccine passports.

Speaking about the new measures, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government had acted “swiftly” and “in a proportionate way”.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he added: “The reason we’ve set out these measures yesterday is to protect the progress we’ve made so we can all continue to enjoy Christmas with our families,” he said.

“People should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”

Mr Javid also said he did not think that further measures were necessary yet, as social distancing and work from home directives “carry a very heavy price, economically, socially, in terms of non-COVID health outcomes”.

He added: “If one was to make decisions like that they’d have to be made very, very carefully, we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that.”

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