Two infections with the new Omicron variant have been detected in the UK, it has been announced.
The cases – in Chelmsford and Nottingham – are “linked” and have been traced to southern Africa, health secretary Sajid Javid said, as he started sequence testing of other cases in the areas.
Mr Javid announced that four countries – Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia –are being added to the travel ‘red list’ from Sunday, requiring arrivals to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
“We’ve been always very clear that we will not hesitate to take further action if that is what is required,” he said.
“The two individuals concerned are isolating alongside their whole households, whilst further tests and sequencing is carried out.”
Scientists had predicted that the arrival of Omicron in the UK was inevitable – prompting some calls for the government to trigger its ‘plan B’ list of tougher Covid measures.
Asked if the public should now expect changes “as we head in into Christmas”, Mr Javid said: “We’ve always been really clear that we will do whatever is necessary to protect the progress that we’ve made as a country.
“We’ve come a long way, especially since the summer, and we keep all of this under review and if we need to take further action, we will.”
Boris Johnson will host a press conference with the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser later, “to set out further measures,” Mr Javid said.
“If anyone is sitting at home, thinking what can I do – get vaccinated,” the health secretary said, when asked what the public’s response should be.