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Omicron variant latest: Cases TREBLE as 6 new infections detected in Scotland, plus masks in schools, transport & shops

COVID CHAOS

THE number of Omicron infections in the UK has now TREBLED after six new cases were today confirmed in Scotland.

Four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

Public Health Scotland and local health protection teams are working together and "enhanced" contact tracing is being undertaken to establish the origin of the virus and any individuals the people have come into contact with in recent weeks.

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

It comes after it was announced face coverings will be mandatory on public transport and in shops and other settings including banks, post offices and hairdressers from Tuesday morning.

Isolation rules will also return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test for Covid-19.

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates...

  • New travel rules 'completely ineffective'

    Tougher Covid-19 restrictions on international travel have been "completely ineffective in the past", according to the former boss of British Airways' parent company.

    Ex-IAG chief executive Willie Walsh described the reintroduction of tighter quarantine and testing regulations due to concern over the Omicron variant of coronavirus as a "knee-jerk decision" which imposes "huge hardship" on travellers.

    From 4am on Tuesday fully-vaccinated people entering the UK will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test taken on the second day after they arrive.

    The tests must be bought from the private sector, typically costing around £55.

    Previously fully-vaccinated travellers were only required to take a cheaper lateral flow test, and did not need to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.

    People who are unvaccinated will continue to need one pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, and must quarantine for 10 days.

  • 'Good cause to be concerned about Omicron'

    Professor Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advising Government, told Sky News there was "good cause to be concerned" about Omicron.

    He said it "makes sense to try and hold it back" though it will be "impossible to stop it spreading around the world if it is much more infectious than the Delta variant".

    He said the most important thing people in the UK could do was to have vaccines and take measures such as wearing masks.

    Asked if people should be told to wear masks in pubs and restaurants, he said: "If you are in a small, poorly ventilated enclosed space, it makes sense to wear a mask. Clearly when you are drinking and eating it's not possible to do that but if you're moving around, then absolutely.

    "We know that infection happens in closed spaces indoors and of course, as it gets colder, people are more likely to be indoors and they're less likely to have the windows open.

    "So if you're going to wear masks in shops, it makes sense to wear them in other places as well."

  • Essex Omicron variant case is 'doing well'

    A person infected with the Omicron variant in Essex is "well" and isolating with their family, the region's top public health official has said.

    Essex director of public health Dr Michael Gogarty told BBC Breakfast: "Most importantly with the confirmed case is that they are well, they are isolating with their family.

    "When I say that they are well, I mean they are not seriously ill.

    "They have some symptoms but they do not require hospitalisation."

  • JCVI to give advice on speeding up vaccine booster shot rollout

    Millions more people could be offered booster jabs as advisers consider extending them to all adults under emergency measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

    A decision from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on expanding the programme and cutting the gap before a third dose could come as early as Monday.

    Teachers and pupils in Year 7 and above are now being "strongly advised" to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.

    They will become compulsory again on public transport and in shops from Tuesday, when isolation rules will return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test.

    Close contacts of positive Omicron cases were being ordered to isolate for 10 days even if they have been vaccinated under emergency measures announced over the weekend.

    Britain will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the variant first detected in South Africa amid concerns it could spread rapidly and partially evade existing jabs.

  • Labour calls for sick pay for people self-isolating

    Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said ensuring people have sick pay when they have to self-isolate is "one of the most crucial things we can do" amid the rise of the Omicron variant, along with people wearing face coverings - "including the Prime Minister".

    She told BBC Breakfast: "If people have to self-isolate or go off sick they have to be given sick pay, it's one of the most crucial things we can do to ensure that everybody can do the right thing and protect people from this new variant.

    "The booster jab should be given as quickly as possible, we said five months, hopefully that will happen now, and there should be ventilation in schools.

    "People should be wearing masks, including the Prime Minister when he's visiting public spaces indoors.

    "The G7 was very clear in its commitment to rolling out the vaccines across the globe and we've not met those targets.

    "We've seen that there's no point in vaccinating Britain if the rest of the world is not given the vaccines as well."

  • 'Health service is going to be concerned'

    Asked whether the NHS is concerned about the new variant of the virus which causes Covid-19, Richard Murray, director of The King's Fund think tank, told Times Radio: "Of course the health service is going to be concerned.

    "It has come through two major waves of Covid and we are gong to discuss how you recover from this - how you deal with a tired workforce and lengthy delays for hospital, but also of course general practice and other services like mental health.

    "So this news is not welcome.

    "Of course what we don't know yet is what Omicron will do but this is certainly not good news for the health service."

    He added that it would be a "long march back" to get services back to "where we want them to be".

  • Six cases of Omicron identified in Scotland

    Six cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish government said on Monday.

    It added that public health officials were working to establish the circumstances of the cases.

    "Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases," Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said.

    "This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks."

  • Christmas will be ‘great’ 

    BRITAIN is "nowhere near" full lockdown and Christmas will be "great" despite panic over the Omicron variant, Sajid Javid has insisted

    Two cases of the new super strain were confirmed yesterday - sparking fears the UK could be plunged back into lockdown over the festive season.

    But Health Secretary Mr Javid has said "we're nowhere near" reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat coronavirus.

    He told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday: "We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health.

    "So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we're not there yet, we're nowhere near that."

    He added that people should plan for Christmas as "normal".

  • December 18 review

    Mr Johnson stressed that the action on borders, masks and isolation was precautionary ahead of the December 18 review.

    He added: “At that point we should have much greater information about the continuing effectiveness of vaccines.

    “I very much hope that we will find that we continue to be in a strong position, and we can lift these measures again.

    “But right now this is the responsible course of action, to slow down this new variant, and to maximise our defences, so we protect the gains we have worked so hard for and so that we can continue to save lives.”

  • 'We will never defeat Covid'

    Speaking to Sky's Trevor Philips on Sunday Mr Javid also admitted "we will never defeat" Covid.

    He has also asked Government vaccine advisers the JCVI to broaden the booster programme, which is currently open to all over-40s.

    When asked how mandatory mask-wearing will be enforced, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I do think people will take this more seriously".

  • What are the new rules on face masks?

    The latest caution about the Covid super-strain Omicron was announced at a press conference in Downing Street this evening amid growing concerns over the new variant.

    Government scientists have warned that the new Covid variant spreads rapidly, can be transmitted between fully vaccinated people and makes jabs less effective.

    It's feared that the Omicron variant could weaken vaccine protection by 40 per cent.

    As a result, Sajid Javid has said face masks will be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England from Tuesday.

    MPs are due to vote on confirming the measures after they come into force.

    The government has stopped short of extending vaccine passports in England and issuing advice to work from home, which are part of its Plan B - a contingency plan if intervention on Covid is needed to protect the NHS.

  • Slow down the spread

    Mask-wearing returned last night in a bid to save Christmas from the Omicron variant.

    So far, only two cases of the super-strain have been reported in the UK.

    Mask-wearing will be again compulsory in shops and buses, trains and taxis in England from tomorrow.

    Overseas travel and self-isolation rules have been tightened after the first two cases of the super-strain were detected in Britain.

  • Schools may have to break up early for Christmas 

    SCHOOLS could be forced to break up early for Christmas with a surge in Covid cases already wreaking havoc in classrooms.

    With more and more staff catching the virus, thousands of kids have already been told to switch to remote learning.

    Kids are already being sent home from classrooms and learning moved back online due to spiralling case numbers.

    The Department for Education has told headteachers that sending large groups of kids home should be a "last resort" in "extreme cases".

  • 'If we are vaccinated... we will be in a stronger overall position'

    Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the JCVI will need to decide whether to extend the booster vaccine down to those aged 18 and over.

    They will look at whether 12 to 15-year-olds can now be offered their second doses.

    Prof Whitty said: “It’s pretty clear if we are vaccinated, and in particular get the booster, we will be in a stronger overall position.”

  • Spain to ban unvaccinated Brits from WEDNESDAY

    SPAIN has banned all unvaccinated Brits from entering the country from December 1 in a bid to contain a new strain of coronavirus.

    British tourists will be admitted to Spain from next month only if they can show proof of vaccination, according to a Spanish government bulletin published on Saturday as the country tightened travel restrictions amid concern about the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

    It comes as Switzerland has said only Swiss nationals and permanent residents can enter in a massive blow to Brits' Christmas getaway plans.

    Read more here.

  • New Covid restrictions get public backing

    Labour has said it’s “broadly supportive” of the government’s decision to impose new Covid restrictions, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the new mask rules.

    Khan said: “Today’s announcement that face coverings will be compulsory on public transport nationwide, as they already are across TfL, is welcome.

    “Evidence shows they help stop the virus spreading, and this is a measure I’ve repeatedly urged the government to take.”

    Shadow health minister Alex Norris said: “We are broadly supportive of what has been planned today.”

  • Omicron Covid variant contacts will have to isolate for 10 days

    THOSE who have been in contact with people infected with the Omicron Covid variant will have to isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status under the new rules.

    The Prime Minister announced the new restrictions last night amid growing fears over the dreaded super-strain.

    Boris also said: "We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status.

    "We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport."

  • Tightened rules

    Meanwhile, overseas travel and self-isolation rules have been tightened after the first two cases of the super-strain were detected in Britain.

    Omicron — discovered only days ago in southern Africa — has been declared the worst variant yet by one expert, while there are fears it might reduce vaccine protection over time.

    The PM’s measures, outlined at a Downing Street briefing, aim to slow down its spread until scientists know just how dangerous it is.

    But Mr Johnson stopped short of imposing a devastating shutdown of pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas.

  • 'We're not going to stop people travelling'

    Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Saturday: "We're not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we're not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.

    "Second, we need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together."

  • A normal Xmas

    "I think it's fair to say that the nature of this pandemic is it would be irresponsible to make guarantees," Mr Javid said.

    "As for Christmas, I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it's going to be a great Christmas."

    Compulsory mask-wearing is set to return next week in a bid to save Christmas from a super-mutant coronavirus.

    Boris Johnson ordered the move after at least two cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant were found in the UK.

  • Explained: When do I need to take a PCR test to travel?

    Anyone who enters the UK from abroad will now be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result.

    It is hoped the measures will buy scientists time to learn more about the Omicron variant.

    But there are fears it will also affect the recovery of the aviation industry that has already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.