Defending the introduction of stricter rules to slow the spread of the virus, Sajid Javid told parliament the government was “leaving nothing to chance” while scientists assessed the variant, which was first reported in South Africa last month, reports Asian Lite News
Britain’s Health Minister said on Monday there is now community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus across regions of England but it is too early to say if this will “knock us off our road to recovery”.
Defending the introduction of stricter rules to slow the spread of the virus, Sajid Javid told parliament the government was “leaving nothing to chance” while scientists assessed the variant, which was first reported in South Africa last month.
Javid said there are now 261 Omicron cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales – a total of 336.
“This includes cases with no links to international travel, so we can conclude there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England,” Javid said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday no further restrictions were currently needed to deal with the Omicron variant, but refused to rule out imposing such measures before Christmas.
Britain has announced all inbound travellers will need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test while arrivals from Nigeria, South Africa and nine other African countries will have to quarantine in hotels to slow the spread of the new variant.
The number of hotel rooms available for international quarantine will be doubled this week and the government is “ramping up this capacity as quickly as possible”, Javid said.
Javid said that at this stage the government cannot “say for certain” whether or not Omicron will escape Covid vaccines, or if it causes a more severe illness.
Meanwhile, a further 90 cases of the new Omicron Covid variant have been reported in the UK, taking the total to 336, British health authorities have confirmed.
These include 64 new cases in England, 23 in Scotland and three in Wales. Northern Ireland has still not seen any confirmed Omicron cases.
Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of East Anglia, told the BBC the Omicron variant could start “outcompeting” the dominant Delta variant within weeks.
He said the new variant is “spreading rather more quickly than the Delta variant”, while authorities in South Africa, where the mutation was first detected, have talked of a “rapid” increase in cases.
Britain registered 51,459 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,515,239, according to official figures released on Monday.
The country also reported a further 41 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,646. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.
Nearly 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and around 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 35 percent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.