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Covid news – live: South Africa arrivals not tested, Sajid Javid admits, as third UK omicron case found

Passengers from South Africa were not tested and ‘got home in normal way’, Sajid Javid admits

Sajid Javid has admitted air passengers from South Africa were not tested on arrival into the UK on Friday – despite fears they could be carrying the omicron variant.

They travelled on from airports in normal ways – including on public transport – and were only then asked to take Covid tests and to go into isolation if they tested positive, the health secretary said.

Mr Javid confirmed face masks would once again be compulsory in shops and on public transport from Tuesday, and that day 2 PCR tests for all arrivals will also be re-introduced from 4am the same day. He also revealed the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will advise within a few days on expanding booster jabs to under-40s.

Meanwhile, there has been a third confirmed case of the omicron variant in Britain. Officials said the case was detected in a person who visited London but has since left the country.

Follow our live coverage below

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Third case of Covid variant detected in UK

A third case of the Omicron Covid variant has been confirmed in Britain, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

Tom Batchelor has more on this story here:

A third case of the Omicron Covid variant has been confirmed in Britain, the UK Health Security Agency has said.  

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Third UK case of omicron variant confirmed

A third case of the omicron Covid-19 variant has been confirmed in the UK, in a person who visited London but has since left the country, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

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Cardiff Rugby unable to leave South Africa after two positive Covid cases

Cardiff Rugby has said the team is unable to leave South Africa after two positive cases of Covid-19, one of which is "suspected to be the new variant omicron".

In a statement, the club said: "The travelling party had hoped to depart Cape Town this afternoon after a charter plane was secured, however PCR tests undertaken last night have returned two positive results.

"As a consequence of one of these results suspected of being omicron, the entire travelling party have returned to their hotel to isolate.

"Cardiff Rugby continue to work with the South African Rugby Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and public health authorities both at home and abroad to decide the next course of action.

"The club are also continuing to work with all relevant authorities to secure the travelling party's return to Wales when safe and appropriate.

"Everybody concerned in this highly challenging situation would like to thank their families, friends, colleagues and the wider rugby family for their many messages of concern and well wishes."

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Morocco suspends all incoming air travel

Morocco is suspending all incoming air travel from around the world, starting on Monday, for two weeks because of the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The country’s Foreign Ministry tweeted that the decision was taken to "preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens". It noted the spread of Omicron in Africa and Europe.

Morocco kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic, fearing that its health system would not be able to manage the surges of patients seen in Europe.

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Pre-travel testing should be reinstated ‘immediately’, says Labour MP

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the government should reinstate pre-travel tests "immediately" to help identify and contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

She said: "Only reintroducing PCR tests after two days home isn't sufficient as a precautionary approach as it leaves far too many gaps in the system.

"People can still travel on busy planes, wait in busy departure or arrival halls, then travel home on buses, trains or the tube, all without being tested at all.

"We know from previous waves and variants that the virus spreads via other countries and via indirect flights, not just directly from the countries most affected - which is why early testing from all countries is vital.

"Once again, the government seems to be leaving major gaps in the travel testing regime. They have done this too many times before and they mustn't make the same mistakes again. They need to learn from what happened with previous waves and get comprehensive testing in place fast.”

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Netherlands detects 13 cases of omicron from two flights

Thirteen cases of the new Covid variant omicron have been detected in the Netherlands among passengers on two flights from South Africa.

Authorities at Schipol airport in Amsterdam had tested more than 600 passengers from the two flights that had arrived on Friday.

Some 61 cases of Covid in total were found – 13 (more than a fifth) of them the omicron variant, which is feared to be extremely contagious compared to previous variants.

‘This could be the tip of the iceberg’ – a Dutch health minister said

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Expert whose modelling led to first lockdown says all options should be kept on the table

The expert whose modelling helped instigate the first lockdown welcomed the new measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus but said all options should be kept on the table in case it spreads very rapidly.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he expects to see "substantially larger numbers" of the Omicron variant in the coming days in the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme: "We together with the Netherlands ... we're the two European countries with the largest number of passenger flights to and from South Africa, so it's likely we'll detect quite a lot more cases in the coming days."

He said he backs the new measures announced by the government as "proportionate" to slow the spread of the new variant during the "waiting game" over the next two weeks as scientists analyse its properties.

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Watch: Boris Johnson says he is ‘confident’ this Christmas will be ‘considerably’ better than the last

Boris Johnson has said he is “confident” this Christmas will be ‘considerably’ better than the last.

Watch the prime minister’s full remarks here:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is “confident” that this year’s Christmas will be “considerably better than last” when asked about how he sees the new Omicron variant of Covid affecting festivities in the UK.Johnson was speaking at a press conference on Saturday (27 November) when he was joined by his chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance as well as England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty in outlining new restrictions to tackle the threat of the new variant.Sign up to our free newsletters by clicking here

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Wealthier countries ‘definitely’ need to ensure more of world is vaccinated, says South Africa health minister

South Africa's health minister Joe Phaahla has said wealthier countries "definitely" need to ensure more of the world is vaccinated.

Speaking to LBC, Dr Phaahla said: "Closing borders and stopping travelling between countries, it's not an effective way of managing this. We know at this stage, we've learned over these last 20 months how to live with the virus.

"We've learned how to carry on with some reasonable, not old normality, but new normality of wearing masks, of testing."

Asked if wealthier countries like the UK need to give more vaccine doses to countries in Africa, he said "definitely".

Dr Phaahla said "denying access to those who don't have the financial capacity" creates "a false sense of safety".

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Common travel area exemption from new Covid restrictions welcomed

The exemption of the common travel area from new Covid-19 restrictions against the Omicron variant has been welcomed.

New tougher measures including PCR testing will be introduced for arrivals to the UK from Tuesday morning.

All contacts with a suspected case of Omicron will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status, amid concerns existing jabs will be less effective against the strain that is believed to spread rapidly.

However, this will not apply to the common travel area (CTA), which covers Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands.

The Irish Department of Health has announced its own measures to mitigate against Omicron, including mandatory home quarantine regardless of vaccine status.