Boris Johnson has urged Brits to tighten up use of face masks and get jabbed to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

His announcement will come as a relief to those who feared another lockdown was to be brought in with immediate effect.

Instead precautionary action against Omicron will stops at mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport, as well as tougher rules on testing after travel.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said a renewed pushed for jabs is intended to "bolster" the UK's defence in a three-week blitz against the new variant.

The Prime Minister said "We're not going to stop people travelling" but we will require anyone coming to the UK, to take a PCR test on their second day of arrival and isolate until they have a negative result.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson held a Covid-19 conference at 5pm on Saturday

Despite encouraging statistics of falling hospitalisations and number of deaths in the UK, the new Omicron variant poses a serious risk to the public.

SARS-CoV-2 variant
Scientists are concerned current Covid-19 vaccines will not guarantee protection from the Omicron variant

At the conference delivered alongside England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, Johnson said: "This Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas."

He did not go as far as firmly ruling out a lockdown however.

Two cases of the Omicron variant feared to have higher re-infection rates have been detected in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed.

Both cases are believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, as the government adds four countries in the region to its travel red list.

Restrictions have tightened on travel to four southern African countries

When pushed for more detail on his instruction to "tighten up" use of face masks, the Prime Minister explained coverings would be made mandatory again inside shops and on public transport.

Johnson said: "I think I am going to stick with the formula that I've used before which is I am pretty confident or absolutely confident that this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas."

Sir Patrick Vallance added that there is good reason to be encouraged by the adaptability of vaccines to defend against new variants.

"The best thing everybody can do is get your booster," the PM said.

In response to a question about Christmas fears, Chris Whitty replied asking for families to raise a toast on the day, to the scientists behind creating effective vaccines and boosters against Covid-19.

Omicron is spreading quickly across southern Africa

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Sir Vallance said "three things need to be done" in the face of the Omicron.

He outlined: "The first is to try to limit the number of cases that enter the country from places that have got lots of cases. And that means trying to detect people and prevent them from spreading in the country.

"The second is to make sure that when we do have cases in the country, and we will have cases just as other countries will have, that we try and limit spread in the country and that means detecting those cases, making sure the contacts are identified.

"And the third is to bolster our defences. And the defences are first and foremost to make sure that the vaccines are boosted because very high levels of antibody coverage will create a higher proportion of people protected even against a variant."