Two new Omicron London cases takes UK total to 11 – amid fears of spread with 'many more expected in DAYS', Javid warns
THE UK has now got 11 confirmed cases of the mutant Covid variant Omicron – after two more infections in London emerged this afternoon.
It comes as officials are desperately scrambling to stop the spread of the worrying new variant, with Sajid Javid warning many more cases are expected within days.
Omicron has reached UK shores less than a week after being reported as a concern in African countries.
The Health Secretary told the Commons this afternoon: "There have now been five confirmed case in England and six in Scotland.
"We expect cases to rise over the coming days.
"The new variant has been spreading in the world – its been reported in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands.
"In this race between vaccines and virus, this variant may have given the virus extra legs.
"Our strategy is to buy time and strengthen defences while scientists learn more."
🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news
This morning Scotland logged new cases, with some not linked to travel – suggesting the variant is spreading in the community already.
Nicola Sturgeon said Scots should work from home immediately, sparking worries England could follow suit.
And this afternoon two new cases in the English capital were reported – one in Camden and one in Wandsworth – both have linked to travel in Southern Africa.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: “We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.
“Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second or booster jab without delay.
“It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focussed contact tracing. That’s why it’s critical that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately."
STOP THE SPREAD
Three cases of the new Omicron variant had already been identified in England over the weekend – although officials fear that means hundreds could already be infected.
One patient, in Essex, is said to be not seriously ill and isolating with their family.
But health chiefs are probing possible contacts they made at a local KFC and school, before knowing they were unwell.
Pupils at the school are being tested for the variant, and possible contacts made at the fast food restaurant in Brentwood are being tracked down.
One class at Larchwood Primary School in Pilgrims Hatch has resorted to remote learning while it awaits test results.
There are more than 150 further infections in the UK already, Government sources have claimed.
And UK labs are said to be probing 225 possible samples of the mutant variant.
The Scottish Government said four of the Covid-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Scotland are in the Lanarkshire area, with two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
It comes as:
- A couple fleeing an Omicron quarantine hotel in Holland are arrested after flying in from South Africa
- A minister says restrictions are unlikely to be tightened further over the next three weeks
- An expert has warned that PCR costs could spiral under the Government's new Covid rules
- Parents fear the new mutation will cause 'chaos' in schools
- A rugby match at Twickenham 'may have been a super-spreader event'
Today Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford called for urgent talks with Boris Johnson over the new Covid-19 variant.
In a letter to the PM, they called for tougher restrictions and confirmation of funding to respond to the situation.
Today the vaccines watchdog approved the booster shot for over-18s.
Government scientists confirmed the new advice, which will see an extra 13 million over-18s become eligible for a third shot before the end of the year.
Experts hope cutting the gap between the second and third doses of the jab from six to three months will allow the UK to get ahead of the new Covid variant.
Kids aged 12 to 15 will also be offered a second dose of the vaccine, in an attempt to shore up the nation’s immunity in the face of the worrying new strain.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam described the variant as the "new kid on the block", warning scientists from around the world have been left concerned.
He told the nation at a Downing Street briefing: "Its always been the case that at some point, we’ll get a variant that gives us heightened concern.
"We are at that moment with Omicron."
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Breakfast this morning there were two strategies to deal with the variant.
"Either we raise the immunity in the population or we find a matched vaccine," he said.
He said the JCVI was looking at reducing the interval between second and booster doses and increasing the age range of who is eligible.
The expert warned if Omicron has vaccine escape and "turns out to have a transmission advantage, then it would be sensible to have a new vaccine".
Ministers and scientists are hurriedly working to know just how contagious and dangerous Omicron is.
Last night there were extensive contact tracing efforts in Westminster after it emerged the latest confirmed case had visited before leaving the UK.
Mr Javid has so far dismissed calls for a further lockdown as infections and hospitalisations are “nowhere near” the level required.
He yesterday said people "should continue with their plans for normal as Christmas" – but warned it would be "irresponsible" for him to guarantee there'll be no further restrictions in the future.
The worrying new variant has now been spotted in 14 countries – with global travel being restricted to stop the viral spread.
The UK has put ten countries on the red list – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia.
The US, Australia, India and much of Europe has brought in travel bans, quarantines and extra screenings.
Boris Johnson introduced a range of measures to slow the spread on Saturday.
Brits must now wear masks in shops and on public transport, while anyone who comes into contact with a person who tests positive for Omicron is to isolate for 10 days.
Travellers arriving in the UK from anywhere in the world must take a PCR test by the end of their second day in the country and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
Elsewhere, a minister has today admitted the UK "can't stop" the spread of Omicron.
We pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for The Sun news desk?
Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4104. You can WhatsApp us on 07423 720 250. We pay for videos too.
Click here to upload yours.
Click here to get The Sun newspaper delivered for FREE for the next six weeks.
Source: Read Full Article