A number of new measures have been introduced in an attempt to “slow down” the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant after three cases were detected in the UK.
Hours after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that two infections had been identified in Nottingham and Brentwood, Essex, and before a third case was confirmed, Boris Johnson gave a press conference along with the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, and Professor Chris Whitty, Medical Director.
Professor Whitty cautioned that the “extensive mutations” of the new variant mean that “there is a reasonable chance that there will be some degree of escape from the vaccine,” but said he is hopeful that current injections can prevent serious disease even if the vaccine does not prevent it from spreading as much as would be desirable.
The prime minister said current scientific knowledge is that the Omicron variant “spreads very quickly and can be spread between people who have been double vaccinated.”
While the trio warned that cases of the new variant would likely increase, the prime minister said additional measures were being introduced in an attempt to “slow planting” of the variant.
So what has been announced and what does it mean for Christmas?
Anyone traveling abroad must undergo a PCR test on the second day of arrival in the UK and isolate themselves until a negative result is obtained. The new measure applies to passengers arriving in the UK after 4 am on Tuesday.
Earlier Saturday, Mr. Javid announced that Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia will join South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Lesotho on the travel red list.
Starting at 4 am on Sunday, the UK and Irish residents returning to the country from one of these countries must be quarantined in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £ 2,285 per adult. These packages can be booked through the government website.
The red list rules apply to people of all ages and vaccination status and anyone who breaks the rules faces a fine of up to £ 10,000.
Irish and non-British residents who have been in the affected countries in the previous 10 days will be denied entry into England from noon on Friday 26 November.
Anyone who comes in contact with someone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must self-isolate at home for 10 days, regardless of her vaccination status.
If you need to quarantine yourself, NHS Test and Trace will contact you.
After a third case of the Omicron variant was confirmed on Sunday, the government announced that all staff, visitors and students in Year 7, the first year of secondary school, are “strongly advised” to use a cover in common areas. of Schools and colleges of England, unless exempted.
The temporary orientation will apply starting Monday and covers all educational establishments, including universities, as well as child care settings, such as early childhood care.
Face coverings on public transport and in stores in England will be available again from Tuesday 30 November, but will not be required in hospitality venues.
The launch of the booster vaccine will be stepped up to cover more people and the gap between the second and third doses will be narrowed.
Professor Whitty said that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization will now have to decide whether to extend the booster vaccine to adults 18 years of age and whether to offer a second dose to children 12 to 15 years old who decided with their families to receive the vaccine. first. dose of the vaccine.
Currently, adults 40 and older, those with underlying health problems, and front-line health and social care workers are eligible for a third jab or booster six months after the first.
Currently, children between the ages of 12 and 15 are offered only one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Do these rules apply to all of the UK?
Health is a returned matter so any announcements made by Mr Johnson only apply to England.
Mask-wearing is already mandatory indoors and on public transport in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and some form of vaccine passport or negative Covid test is required to get access to certain indoor events in these countries.
The Welsh and Scottish governments have said that their rules will mirror those set out by the prime minister. Northern Ireland is expected to follow suite.
What does this all mean for Christmas?
The new measures will be assessed in three weeks’ time when “we should have much greater information about the continuing effectiveness of our vaccines”, Mr Johnson said.
However, Sir Patrick warned that the UK may need to “face up” to the possibility of further action if the Omicron variant is very transmissible.
When questioned if it meant that Christmas plans could be curtailed for a second year running, Mr Johnson said he is “absolutely confident that this Christmas will be better than last Christmas”, suggesting he has no current plans to introduce a lockdown.
He said the country is in a “strong position” ahead of the festive period but the “best thing to do” is to keep being jabbed.
Face coverings will not be mandatory in hospitality settings, meaning Christmas parties in pubs and restaurants are able to go ahead as normal.
On Sunday, Mr Javid has said people should plan for Christmas as “normal”.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I think it’s fair to say that the nature of this pandemic is it would be irresponsible to make guarantees.
“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.” Do these rules apply to the whole of the UK?
Health is a decentralized affair, so any announcement made by Johnson only applies to England.
Wearing masks is already mandatory indoors and on public transport in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and some form of Covid vaccine passport or negative test is required to access certain indoor events in these countries.
The governments of Wales and Scotland have said their rules will mirror those set by the prime minister. Northern Ireland is expected to follow suit.
What does all this mean for Christmas?
The new measures will be evaluated in three weeks, when “we should have a lot more information about the continued efficacy of our vaccines,” Johnson said.
However, Sir Patrick warned that the UK might need to “face” the possibility of further action if the Omicron variant is highly transferable.
When asked if that meant Christmas plans could be cut for the second year in a row, Johnson said he is “absolutely certain this Christmas will be better than last,” suggesting that he has no current plans to introduce a closure.
He said the country is in a “strong position” before the holiday period, but that “the best thing to do” is to keep getting hit.
Covering your face will not be mandatory in hospitality settings, which means that Christmas parties in pubs and restaurants can continue as normal.
On Sunday, Javid said that people should plan Christmas as “normal.”
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I think it’s fair to say that the nature of this pandemic is that it would be irresponsible to give guarantees.
“As for Christmas, I think people should go ahead with their plans as usual for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”