Omicron variant latest news – New Covid laws in force from TOMORROW as Brits told they have 3 weeks to save Xmas

A NUMBER of new measures are being brought into force from tomorrow morning as cases of the Covid strain begin to climb.

Face coverings will be mandatory on public transport and in shops and other settings including banks, post offices and hairdressers from 4am tomorrow morning – but the rule does not apply to pubs and restaurants.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted a Christmas lockdown can be avoided if Brits get their booster jabs and start self-testing regularly as ministers vowed to be on the “front foot” in the fight against Omicron.

Mr Javid said: "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."

To bolster defences, millions more people are now eligible for a booster jab after the gap between the second and third dose was lowered from six months to three.

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Milica Cosic

    Sajid Javid doing all he can to protect the public

    Today the UK confirmed that it now had nine confirmed cases as they announced further restrictions to health and travel – placing 12 countries on the red list.

    Sajid Javid said: “We will do all we can to protect the UK public against this emerging threat and that is why we are surging testing capacity to the impacted communities and introducing travel restrictions."

    Israel, meanwhile, became the first country to close its doors completely to all travellers as similar bans were also issued in Spain and Japan.

    Dutch authorities were even forced to arrest a married couple who reportedly left an Omicron enforced Covid quarantine hotel and were attempting to flee the country.

  • Milica Cosic

    'New variant is worrying'

    Prof Lawrence Young, of Warwick Medical School, previously said: “This new variant is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version we have seen to date.

    “This variant carries some changes we’ve seen previously in other variants but never all together in one virus. It also has novel mutations that we’ve not seen before.

    “Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity.

    “We need laboratory studies to determine whether the antibodies induced by current vaccines are able to block infection with this variant.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Omicron variant causes hospitalisations to TRIPLE in two weeks in South Africa

    THE new Omicron variant has caused hospitalisations in South Africa to treble in two weeks, worrying new figures reveal.

    The new data, taken from the NICD, showed that hospital admissions had risen from 135 to 418 over the past 14 days – confirming fears that it could be more transmissible.

    A South African doctor who treated patients with the Omicron variant reported that the symptoms were “mild” but did note that they were "unusual."

    Most new South African infections have been attributed to the new variant Credit: Reuters
  • Milica Cosic

    Brits told it’s ‘time to be vigilant’

    SAJID Javid today insisted a Christmas lockdown can be avoided if Brits get their booster jabs and start self-testing regularly.

    The health secretary said the Omicron variant "may have given the virus extra legs" in the race against vaccines but can be defeated.

    And he insisted new restrictions including mask wearing and travel curbs will be ditched if the strain turns out to be a false alarm.

    Mr Javid made his remarks after top scientists tried to calm public nerves about Omicron.

    Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam told a press conference: "I don't want people to panic at this stage".

    The health secretary said the booster jabs programme is still the best way to ensure people's freedoms are protected.

    Read more here.

  • Milica Cosic

    Supermarket mask rules (Continued…)

    Aldi – Aldi shoppers will need to wear face coverings when they enter stores from Tuesday.

    Lidl – Shoppers heading to Lidl are expected to have to don a face covering from Tuesday onwards.

    Iceland – Iceland shoppers will have to wear masks from tomorrow – but it won't force customers to.

    Morrisons – Morrisons shoppers will have to wear face masks under the new government rules coming in from Tuesday

  • Milica Cosic

    New Covid rules for supermarkets

    COVID fears have increased with the Omicron variant spreading and there are new restrictions coming in.

    Brits face fines for not following the new safety measures which include masks in shops.

    Here's what you can expect when you head to supermarkets when the new rules to help fight Omicron come in.

    Tesco – Tesco shoppers will have to wear a face covering when they head into one of the supermarket's more than 4,000 locations.

    Asda – Asda shoppers will also likely have to wear a mask from Tuesday when the new government rules come in, unless exempt.

    Sainsbury's – Shoppers heading to Sainsbury's are likely to have to follow the government rules for wearing a mask from tomorrow, unless exempt.

  • Milica Cosic

    Face masks from tomorrow

    From November 30, 2021, face masks will be compulsory to wear in shops and on public transport.

    The mandate also applies to hairdressers, nail salons, secondary schools and universities.

    The rules will be reviewed every three weeks, the government said.

  • Milica Cosic

    What are the new rules on face masks?

    The latest caution about the Covid super-strain Omicron was announced at a press conference in Downing Street on November 27, 2021, amid growing concerns over the new variant.

    Government scientists have warned that the new Covid variant spreads rapidly, can be transmitted between fully vaccinated people and makes jabs less effective.

    It is feared that the Omicron variant could weaken vaccine protection by 40 per cent.

    As a result, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said face masks will be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England from Tuesday, November 30.

    The government has stopped short of extending vaccine passports in England and issuing advice to work from home, which is part of its Plan B – a contingency plan if intervention on Covid is needed to protect the NHS.

  • Milica Cosic

    Explained: What should my employer be doing to protect me at work?

    According to government guidance, employers should:

    • Complete a Covid-19 risk assessment, and share it with all staff.
    • Clean more often, especially surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
    • Remind visitors to wear face coverings where the law says they must.
    • Make sure everyone can maintain social distancing, for example putting up signs or introducing a one-way system.
    • Provide adequate ventilation by supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. For example via windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
    • Take part in NHS Test and Trace.
    • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away.
    • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart.
    • Reduce face-to-face meetings.
    • Reduce crowding.

    Your employer does owe a duty of care to you and other members of staff.

    • Milica Cosic

      What are my rights if my employer asks me to return to the office?

      Many employees may still feel uncomfortable about returning to their workplace during the pandemic.

      Miquelle Groves, associate solicitor at DAS Law, said: "Your employer owes you as an employee a duty of care.

      "The law is very clear on the fact that if you feel that your place of work is unsafe, then you would be protected when taking certain measures, [for example] refusing to attend."

      But, all workers have an obligation to obey lawful and reasonable instructions given by their employer, explains the government.

    • Milica Cosic

      News you may have missed

      • Millions to get booster jab EARLY in race to save Christmas from Omicron – as 2nd dose deemed safe for kids
      • Two new Omicron cases takes UK total to 11 – amid fears of spread with 'many more expected in DAYS'
      • Certain people ‘appear at greater risk of Omicron variant’, doctor who first spotted strain warns

      Sturgeon says COP26 unlikely to be linked to Scotland’s Omicron cases

      Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday it was unlikely but not impossible that six cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 found in the country were linked to the COP26 conference held earlier this month in Glasgow.

      “We have no information right now that any of these cases are related to COP,” Sturgeon told a news conference.

      “If you consider the timelines of COP, it is not impossible, but it’s perhaps also not probable that there are connections to COP.”

      Labour calls for sick pay for people self-isolating

      Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said ensuring people have sick pay when they have to self-isolate is “one of the most crucial things we can do” amid the rise of the Omicron variant, along with people wearing face coverings – “including the Prime Minister”.

      She told BBC Breakfast: “If people have to self-isolate or go off sick they have to be given sick pay, it’s one of the most crucial things we can do to ensure that everybody can do the right thing and protect people from this new variant.

      “The booster jab should be given as quickly as possible, we said five months, hopefully that will happen now, and there should be ventilation in schools.

      “People should be wearing masks, including the Prime Minister when he’s visiting public spaces indoors.

      “The G7 was very clear in its commitment to rolling out the vaccines across the globe and we’ve not met those targets.

      “We’ve seen that there’s no point in vaccinating Britain if the rest of the world is not given the vaccines as well.”

      BREAKING: UK daily Covid deaths lowest in 7 weeks

      NEW UK Covid deaths were today at their lowest level in seven weeks as fears of the new Omicron variant spread.

      Another 35 fatalities were confirmed this afternoon, along with 42,583 new infections.

      The number of daily deaths has not been so low since October 11, when 28 more fatalities were confirmed.

      It comes as the total number of confirmed Omicron cases in Britain rose to 11 – after two more infections in London emerged this afternoon.

      December 18 review

      Mr Johnson stressed that the action on borders, masks and isolation was precautionary ahead of the December 18 review.

      He added: “At that point we should have much greater information about the continuing effectiveness of vaccines.

      “I very much hope that we will find that we continue to be in a strong position, and we can lift these measures again.

      “But right now this is the responsible course of action, to slow down this new variant, and to maximise our defences, so we protect the gains we have worked so hard for and so that we can continue to save lives.”

      • Joseph Gamp

        All over-18s to be offered Covid booster jab

        All people aged 18 and over are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant.

        Millions more people in the UK will become eligible for a third booster dose after early evidence suggested that higher antibody levels may protect better against the variant.

        The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a booster dose, in order of descending age groups, to increase their level of protection. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.

        Booster doses should be given no sooner than three months after people have had their second dose of an original vaccine – shaving three months off the current six-month wait, according to the JCVI.

        In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

      • Joseph Gamp

        TUI says Brits can reschedule for free if travelling before December 21

        Travel company TUI said on Monday all UK customers due to travel before Dec. 21 would be able to change to another date for free if they chose to, in light of new travel curbs to contain the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

        The United Kingdom has restricted travel from southern Africa. The variant was first detected in South Africa last week.

        TUI has around 1,600 travel agencies and online portals, five airlines, over 400 hotels, 15 cruise liners in major holiday destinations around the globe.

      • Joseph Gamp

        Sturgeon 'hopes' variant will not prevent people from enjoying a 'normal' Christmas

        Scotland's First Minister said she "fervently hopes" the Omicron variant will not prevent people having a normal Christmas with family and is not asking people to change festive plans.

        Questioned if people should put their plans on hold or develop contingencies, she said: "I'm not asking anybody today to put plans on hold", but added people would factor contingencies into "all sorts of plans".

        Speaking at a Scottish Government briefing on the new coronavirus variant as six cases were confirmed north of the border, she said the Scottish Government will keep people updated on any changes to its advice as more is learned about Omicron.

        She said: "I'm not asking you to change your plans. I know it's three weeks to Christmas and none of us, including me, wanted to be in a position where I'm standing here again talking about a new variant that is posing risks. If any of our advice changes it's important that we do that in a proper way and we communicate it in a proper way.

        "Individuals, humans beings, will factor in contingencies into all sorts of plans they make and I'm sure there will be many who will be thinking about 'if X happened what will I do?', instead of what they were planning to do.

        "I can't make that decision for every individual across the country… What I am going to try to do is tell you as much as we know about what we're learning about this variant and to tell you as, and when, and if – because it is an if just now – that changes any of the advice that we are giving so that the decisions people are making can be made in the most informed way possible. And I think that's the only way really to proceed right now.

        "Standing here right now I still hope, really fervently hope, to be having a normal Christmas with my family. Can I say that in a 100% sense? No, but that's what I hope and I think that's what we should be all be hopeful of as we learn more about this variant."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Top medical chief calls for further face covering rules

        Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of council at the BMA, also called for further mask-wearing.

        He told Good Morning Britain: "What we believe is that there should be mask-wearing in all settings which are enclosed and indoors.

        "Now clearly, that doesn't apply to people who are eating out, but it should apply to staff, for example, in restaurants and bars so that when you are close to a customer, when you're in direct line of a customer, maybe a few feet away, and you're speaking perhaps loudly, you reduce the chance of infecting others.

        "This isn't just about the public, it's also about staff and employers as well, because if they have staff who become infected, staff who are ill and self-isolating, that will also affect the economy.

        "So there is a reason for doing this for both customers and employers."

      • Joseph Gamp

        UK set to announce expansion of Covid booster vaccine programme

        UK scientists are set to announce an expansion of the Covid-19 booster vaccine programme as nine cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed across the country.

        Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said experts have been looking at extending boosters to the under-40s and whether the time interval between the second and third doses of the vaccine should be cut.

        A decision is expected to be announced on Monday afternoon, at the same time as an urgent meeting is held of health ministers from the G7 group of nations to discuss the new Omicron variant.

        According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), preliminary evidence suggests Omicron carries a higher risk of reinfection though it is not yet clear how transmissible it is or whether it can evade vaccine protection.

        The UK now has nine confirmed cases of the variant after the Scottish government announced on Monday morning it had discovered four cases in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

      • Joseph Gamp

        No.10 rejects Sturgeon & Drakeford's calls to hold COBRA meeting

        Downing Street has rejected calls from the Scottish and Welsh first ministers for tougher travel restrictions and an urgent meeting to tackle the threat posed by the new Omicron variant.

        Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford joined forces to demand that the Prime Minister convene an urgent Cobra meeting to discuss taking a four-nations approach to issues such as border restrictions.

        While the Scottish Government has followed the new travel restrictions put in place by Westminster, requiring passengers coming into the UK to do a PCR test two days after arrival, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford wrote to Boris Johnson calling for people coming into the UK from overseas to be required to self isolate for eight days – and then do a second PCR test.

        It comes after six cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were identified in Scotland, in addition to three previously identified in England.

        The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We would confirm any plans for a cobra meeting in the normal way. Currently, there isn't one scheduled.

        "We obviously speak to our devolved administration counterparts very regularly and we will continue to coordinate our response with them."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Cases in South Africa continue to climb rapidly

        In South Africa, the Omicron epicentre, cases have already soared several-fold since the alarm was raised about a new and deeply worrying variant.

        Some 3,220 new cases were reported on Saturday and 2,858 new cases on Sunday.

        On November 15, two weeks ago today, only 137 cases were reported in the nation, according to Worldometer.

        But by Sunday, they could be 100 times higher than that, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, a South African public health and infectious diseases specialist, told an online health ministry press briefing.

      • Joseph Gamp

        Graph: South Africa's sharp spike in cases

        The following graphic shows the trajectory of Covid cases over the past two weeks in South Africa.

        One of the country's epidemiologists, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, says he expects cases to reach 10,000 by the end of this week

      • Joseph Gamp

        First Minister urges all travellers to isolate for two days upon arrival in Scotland

        Nicola Sturgeon has urged all travellers to isolate for at least two days after arriving in Scotland until they get a negative PCR test, following the discovery of the Omicron strain of coronavirus.

        Calling for the public to "redouble our efforts" to tackle the virus, the SNP leader said: "We are asking all travellers – no matter where they are travelling from – to isolate until they get a negative result from a PCR test that they must do on day 2 after their arrival.

        "We are also asking close contacts of any confirmed cases of Omicron to isolate.

        "That none of this was even contemplated just a few days ago, is a reminder of how fast this virus can move and change."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Sturgeon 'won't shy away from difficult decisions'

        Ms Sturgeon pledged to not "shy away" from difficult decisions following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

        The Scottish First Minister told the SNP conference: "While I still hope it will not be necessary, if difficult decisions need to be made to keep us safe, we will not shy away from them.

        "Steering the country through this winter is my priority. It is my duty.

        "But no government can fight a virus alone, we all need to play our part.

        "That was true before the detection of Omicron, and it is even more so now."

        Source: Read Full Article