Government Imposes New Restrictions To Fight Omicron As First Cases Are Discovered In UK | Coronavirus

Boris Johnson has expressed his “absolute confidence” that people will enjoy a better Christmas this year than last year, despite the reimposition of a series of restrictions – including compulsory masks – to combat the new highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The Prime Minister tried to allay fears over the prospect of another impending lockdown on Saturday, hours after the first two cases of the new variant were reported in the UK, Nottingham and Essex.

At a joint press conference flanked by UK Chief Science Advisor Patrick Vallance and England Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Johnson said people in England would be required to wear clothing again. face masks in public transport and in shops. Downing Street later confirmed that masks would become mandatory in shops and on public transport from “next week”, but “all hospitality establishments will be exempt”. Masks are already compulsory in these settings in Wales and Scotland.

Johnson also said anyone entering the country from overseas should take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving and self-isolate until they test negative.

The prime minister said people were not going to be prevented from traveling or returning from abroad. He admitted the travel restrictions “seemed harsh” but insisted the whole package was “targeted and appropriate”, adding “this is how it should be”.

When asked if the government could have speeded up the border closures to protect the country from the new variant, he said action was taken as soon as news of it leaked from southern Africa: “I didn’t. really don’t know how we could ”I acted faster. We broke the news on Thursday and put a lot of southern African countries on the red list yesterday, and more today.

Four more countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola – have been added to a UK list facing flight bans that now includes 10 countries.

When asked how worried people should be and whether they should change their Christmas plans, Johnson said there was still a lot to know about the new variant. But he was sure the UK was in a much stronger position than last year due to the success of the vaccination and booster programs.

Regarding the outlook for Christmas, he said he would stick to a carefully chosen word form: “I’m pretty confident or absolutely convinced that this Christmas is going to be better than last Christmas. I think I’ll stick with that, “he said.

During the holiday season last year, plans to allow three households to mingle for five days were canceled at the last minute. Ultimately, three households were allowed to mix on Christmas Day even across most of the country, while in London and the South East, where cases were higher, households were not at all allowed to mix inside.

Vallance said at the press conference that while there was some indication that the Omicron variant might be able to withstand Covid vaccines, it was also possible that the current vaccines and boosters “may be enough to prevent people to have serious illnesses and in some cases to die. “

Johnson said the government will work to speed up the virus booster program over the next few weeks and that the central message to everyone is to get vaccinated as soon as possible and then have the booster when it comes to it. is eligible.

Wearing a mask is once again made compulsory in public transport and in shops. Photograph: Victoria Jones / PA

The new mask-wearing requirements in shops and on public transport – as well as a new testing regime for anyone arriving in the UK from abroad – will be reviewed in three weeks.

The first two Omicron cases in that country are believed to be linked and linked to travel to southern Africa. Individuals and their households were ordered to self-isolate and targeted testing was carried out in areas where they were believed to be infectious. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new variant was “a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over.”

Javid said anyone who has traveled in the past 10 days to the 10 countries now on the Red List, which also includes South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Zimbabwe and Namibia , must self-isolate and pass PCR testing.

The UK is the second European country to report the presence of Omicron after Belgium said it identified a single case on Friday. On Saturday evening, cases were also confirmed in Germany and Italy. There were also concerns in the Netherlands after 61 people tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving on two flights from South Africa on Friday. Further tests were underway to determine if any of them had the Omicron variant.

Many drug companies have said they are working to adapt their vaccines in light of the emergence of Omicron after the WHO warned that preliminary evidence suggested the variant has an increased risk of re-infection and may spread faster than other strains. On Saturday, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped create the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed optimism that existing vaccines would be effective in protecting against serious illnesses caused by the new Omicron variant. He also said it was “extremely unlikely” that this would cause a “restart” of the pandemic.
Pollard, who also chairs the government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunization, said a new vaccine could be developed “very quickly” if needed, as scientists now have a “well-oiled” process.

He told BBC Radio 4 Today program that it would take weeks before the severity could be judged more accurately: “At least from a speculative point of view, we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant for severe disease. but we really have to wait several weeks for this to be confirmed.

The arrival of the new variant comes as ministers prepare a series of announcements this week to clear the backlog of operations in the NHS caused by Covid and prepare it for winter.

Ministers to announce ‘elective stimulus package’ to tackle England’s massive NHS care backlog as the centerpiece of a ‘health week’ of announcements they hope will see them regain control of the narrative around the increasingly fragile state of health service and social assistance.

Patients are expected to be informed that they will have fewer follow-up appointments after operations, and instead will be encouraged to use hospital trust apps, phones and websites to request a consultation with a doctor. specialist if they feel the need. The plan is part of a major shift towards what authorities are calling “patient-activated health care” that will free up space to tackle the backlog.

As part of these plans, patients could also be offered the option of having the operation outside their home region, in another part of the country. However, demand is likely to be limited by the availability of surgical capacity and the willingness of patients to travel.

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