New measures to slow the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant are set to be introduced today.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the temporary measures over the weekend following the discovery of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Scientists have said they are concerned about the Omicron variant - also known as B.1.1.529 - as it has about 30 different mutations, double the number of the Delta variant.
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UK scientists became aware of the new strain on November 23, after samples were uploaded to a coronavirus variant tracking website from South Africa, Hong Kong and then Botswana.
Cases of the Omicron variant have since been confirmed in a number of countries including England, Scotland, Israel, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal.
There are 11 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, as of Monday, a number expected to rise.
Preventative measures have been announced to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant, while professionals continue to gather further information on it.
What are the measures in place?
All international arrivals must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, with contacts of suspected Omicron outbreaks having to isolate regardless of vaccination status.
NHS Track and Trace will also be in touch with them accordingly.
As of Tuesday, face coverings are compulsory in shops and on public transport.
However, all hospitality settings will be exempt.
Travel restrictions have already been announced and put in place, with South Africa, Botswana, Lesostho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola all added to the UK's red list with regards to travelling.
These restrictions have reportedly been put in place and have been active since 4am this morning (28th November) with aims to slow the spread of the variant.
Any party arriving in the UK from any of the aforementioned countries will be required to isolate and quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
The new measures both implemented and scheduled will be reviewed within three weeks.
What about vaccine boosters?
On Monday the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced it is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a booster dose. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.
The move means millions more people in the UK will become eligible for a third booster dose after early evidence suggested that higher antibody levels may protect better against the variant.
In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.
The JCVI also said that severely immunosuppressed people should be offered a booster dose no sooner than three months after completing their primary course of three doses.
Will there be more restrictions?
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has failed to rule out any future lockdown, but insisted putting the "booster programme on steroids" is the main form of defence against Covid.
He told MPs the new Omicron variant "may have given the virus extra legs" in the race between the disease and vaccines.
After he confirmed all people aged 18 and over are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine, Mr Javid said such action will "make us better protected as a nation".
MPs are also due to debate and vote on new Covid restrictions in England, including face coverings in shops and public transport, on Tuesday - hours after they have come into force.
Mr Javid told the Commons: "If it emerges that this variant is no more dangerous than the Delta variant, then we won't keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary."
He also said he is "confident" the responses he has set out are "balanced and responsible steps that are proportionate to the threat that we face".
Mr Javid went on: "We always knew there would be bumps in the road, but this is not a time to waver, it's a time to be vigilant and to think about what each and every one one of us can do to slow the spread of this new variant."
But Conservative MP Richard Drax (South Dorset) said Covid is "not going away" before adding: "It's here for the rest of our lives.
"The country is learning to live with this disease, it is the only way forward.
"Can he please reassure me, the House and the country that he will never, ever go back to locking this country down?"
Mr Javid replied: "No-one wants to see those kinds of measures, but (Mr Drax) I'm sure will agree with me that, first let me agree with him that Covid is with us to stay and we need to learn to live with it, and the best way I think we can do that is with the primary form of defence that we've got, which is our vaccination programme.
"And I hope he agrees with me that we're absolutely right to basically put the booster programme on steroids because that will really help us."
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