Omicron was in Britain BEFORE South Africa raised alarm

Omicron was in Britain BEFORE South Africa raised alarm: Nine Scottish cases all linked to single ‘event’ on November 20, four days before official discovery, amid fears it was imported at COP26 or by rugby fans — as UK variant case count rises to 32

  • A total of 22 cases of the new Omicron Covid virus variant have been found in England 10 reported in Scotland
  • Scotland’s 10th case comes as it was revealed the others were from four days before Omicron was discovered
  • This means the virus has been circulating in the UK  well before South Africa warned the world about Omicron
  •  UK health authorities have not revealed the vaccination status of the cases but none of the 32 are seriously ill

Omicron was in the UK days before South Africa warned the world of the new Covid variant, it has emerged after the majority of cases in Scotland were linked to a single ‘event’ on November 20.

Nicola Sturgeon revealed that nine of Scotland’s 10 cases were traced back to a ‘single private’ event four days before South African doctors raised the alarm about the super-mutant strain.

The first minister told MSPs that all nine were tested on around November 23 and their samples later analysed for the new variant. They were all based in the Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire area and none had any travel links.

The lack of links abroad has raised questions are being raised about whether the variant may have been imported into the country at the COP26 climate summit, which was held in Glasgow in the first fortnight of the month, or at the Scotland v South Africa rugby match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on 13 November. 

Ms Sturgeon could not rule the theory out but claimed the timings meant it was ‘improbable’.

This means that Omicron was already circulating in the UK before the Government introduced travel restrictions on several African nations in a bid to reduce the spread. 

It comes as a further 10 cases of Omicron were found in the UK today, bringing the total number of known cases in Britain up to 32 though none have been serious enough to require hospitlisation. Nine of the new cases were found in England and one in Scotland, according to official data released today.     

A total of 32 cases of Omicron have now been detected in the UK, 22 in England and 10 in Scotland, while the vaccination status of the infected individuals is unknown none have required hospitalisation 

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said nine of the Omicron cases in the country are from a ‘single private event’

Nine of Scotland’s Omicron variant cases were linked to a single domestic ‘event’. The lack of links abroad has raised questions are being raised about whether the variant may have been imported into the country at the COP26 climate summit, which was held in Glasgow in the first fortnight of the month,

Another potential event that may have played a role was the Scotland vs. South Africa rugby game on 13 November, though all ticket holders to the game were required to have proof of vaccination status. The game was sell out, with a packed crowd of Murrayfield Stadium 67,000 in Edinburgh, though it should be noted there have been no cases of Omicron detected in the city.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday that more cases were likely to emerge from this event, though there has been no details on if this is true for the new, and 10th case in the country.  

‘Given the nature and scale of the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—the surveillance work that Public Health Scotland is doing is also looking at any potential links to it,’ she said.

‘At this stage, however, there is no evidence whatsoever of any such link. Although it is not impossible that one will emerge, the timelines that are involved make it improbable.’

Another potential event that may have played a role was the Scotland vs. South Africa rugby game on 13 November, though all ticket holders to the game were required to have proof of vaccination status.

The game was sell out, with a packed crowd of Murrayfield Stadium 67,000 in Edinburgh, though it should be noted there have been no cases of Omicron detected in the city. 

Detailing the 10 new cases the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said all the detected Omicron positive individuals, as well as their contacts, are now isolating with links to travel to Southern Africa being investigated.  

All UK arrivals should be forced to quarantine for five days and take a pre-departure PCR test even if they are vaccinated, SAGE has advised.

The expert panel warned the current travel curbs were allowing ‘significant’ numbers of infected people to slip through the cracks.

Currently, fully vaccinated people coming into the UK need to take a PCR test within the first two days of returning to the UK.

There is nothing stopping them taking this as soon as they land and getting a result on the same day, releasing them from isolation in hours.

SAGE scientists said this might not give enough time for the virus to incubate. They also called for ministers to bring in day five and day eight tests.

Only unvaccinated people coming into the UK have to take ‘fit to fly’ tests before getting on a plane back to Britain.

SAGE’s new advice was leaked from minutes of an emergency meeting about the new Omicron variant held on Monday.

More than 30 scientists attended the video conference on November 29, led by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty. 

Areas in England where Omicron has detected for the first time include: Bexley, Buckinghamshire, Lancaster, Lewisham, Newham, North Norfolk, South Cambridgeshire, Sutton, and Three Rivers.

While Ms Sturgeon has provided more detail on the timing of Scotland’s Omicron cases, no such detail has been forthcoming from England.

It is unknown if any of England’s Omicron predate South Africa’s warning to the global community about the rise of the variant, or if they are all subsequent infections from people arriving or returning to the UK. 

UKHSA said it is carrying out targeted testing at locations where it believes cases are likely to be spreading.  

The total number of confirmed Omicron cases in England is now 22 and 10 in Scotland.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, said more cases of Omicron were likely to emerge soon and urged anyone with symptoms of the virus to get tested. 

‘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 focused contact tracing,’ she said. 

‘That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.’

Dr Harris also repeated government calls for people to get their Covid vaccines as soon as possible and follow guidance on mask wearing in public places. 

‘Please take up this offer as soon as you are eligible to protect yourself, your families and your communities,’ she said. 

‘Please make sure to wear a mask in line with government guidance, including on public transport and in shops, to help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.’

Dr Harris did not repeat her call to ‘limit festive socialising’ in announcing the latest Omicron cases with the comments sparking outrage from the beleaguered hospitality sector yesterday. 

Former minister Steve Baker was one of those that condemned the comments from Dr Harries: ‘Loneliness shortens lives… and yet we find an official going beyond Government policy to say that we should not have unnecessary socialising.’

One of the big fears regarding Omicron, which is the most mutated strain of Covid recorded, is its potential ability to ‘dodge’ vaccines due to the evolutions which make it different from previous variants. 

But UKHSA has not detailed the vaccination status any of the 32 people infected with Omicron, but none of them have required hospitalisation.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms, including tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But none reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties 

In total 18million Britons have had a booster jab so far and, after yesterday’s guidance change, all 53million adults over 18 will be eligible eventually. At the current rate of 2.4million jabs per week, it would take until March to get everyone boosted

 

The UK and US are both recording much higher levels of infection than South Africa – the epicentre of the Omicron outbreak – but cases are rising sharply and are up 400 per cent in a week

As of yet there have been no reported cases of Omicron in Wales or Northern Ireland. 

The new cases come after UK Government has launched a behemoth Covid booster vaccine drive this week, setting a target of delivering more than 50million booster jabs, one for every eligible adult by the end of January, which will involve massively ramping up the current drive which is barely reaching 2.5m per week. 

Boosters ARE effective against Omicron: Israeli scientists claim Pfizer’s jab provides up to 90% protection

People who get a booster Pfizer Covid vaccine or who had their second jab within six months should still be highly protected against Omicron, Israeli health chiefs claim.

Without citing any data, Health minister Nitzan Horowitz yesterday said there was ‘room for optimism’ and that existing vaccines will shield against severe illness from the super-strain, based on ‘initial indications’.

Hours later, a report by an Israeli news channel claimed the Pfizer jab was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron, only slightly less than Delta. 

The Channel 12 news broadcast also claimed the super variant is just 30 per cent more infectious than Delta — much lower than initially feared.

or comparison, Delta is 70 per cent more infectious than the Alpha strain, which it outpaced earlier this year.  

GPs are being incentivised to take a lead in the vaccine programme with doctors getting £15 for every jab delivered with a £5 bonus per shot delivered on Sundays and a £30 premium for jabs delivered to vulnerable people in their homes.

The Government has already drafted 400 army medics and 1,500 pharmacies are in to the booster campaign to turbocharge the pace of the rollout.

It also plans to recruit 10,000 more paid vaccine volunteers and ‘tens of thousands’ of unpaid volunteers to help with the booster drive.

While the Government is ramping up its vaccine efforts, the World Health Organization (WHO) poured cold water on some of the Omicron dear hysteria today. 

A WHO official claimed today that  most Omicron cases are ‘mild’ and there is no evidence the new variant has any impact on vaccine effectiveness against serious illness.

A spokesperson for the global health agency said early data suggests the mutant strain is better at infecting people than Delta, even among the fully vaccinated.

But there is no sign that existing vaccines will be any less effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths, the official, speaking anonymously, told Reuters. 

But Covid hospitalisations are starting to rise in the South African epicentre of Gauteng province, which is raising questions about how mild the variant truly is.

The province recorded 580 hospitalisations this week, in a jump of 330 per cent from 135 hospital admissions two week ago, according to official Government data. 

But just a quarter of South Africans have had two Covid vaccine doses, which makes interpreting the data challenging. In the city of Tshwane in northern Gauteng, 87 per cent of hospital admissions this week were among the unvaccinated.

For comparison, 70 per cent of people in the UK are double-jabbed and the figure is as high as 80 per cent in some European nations.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist at the WHO, later told a press conference that ‘surveillance bias’ could be underestimating the severity of Omicron, because young people have been the main spreaders of the strain.

Last night, Israeli officials claimed that a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine provides up to 90 per cent protection against severe illness from Omicron.

But experts warn it will be at least two weeks until they have a better understanding of what impact the variant could have.

And SAGE, No10’s scientific advisors, warned Britain should brace for a ‘potentially very significant wave with associated hospitalisations’ this winter if the worst estimates about Omicron turn out to be true.

It comes after Botswana’s health ministry revealed it had detected 19 Omicron cases in the country and 16 among the group had no symptoms of the virus.

The Omicron variant has around 50 mutations with more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body’s immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body’s cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness 

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won’t be ready until mid-2022

Dr Pamela Smith-Lawrence, acting director of Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, said the majority of the 19 infected people have already tested negative. 

NHS trusts are cancelling Xmas parties and telling staff ‘stick to small groups’ due to Omicron fears, health service chief reveals

Many NHS trusts have asked staff not to host big Christmas parties over fears the new Omicron variant will make them unable to work, a health chief revealed today.  

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, said lots of hospitals are asking workers ‘not to mix in big groups’ over the festive period.

NHS bosses are trying to limit the ‘potential threat’ to medics’ health and the knock-on effect catching the virus will have on ‘what they will be available to do’.

It comes amid conflicting advice on what Britons should do in the run up to Christmas following the emergence of the super mutant Omicron variant. 

Asked on Sky News whether people should be going to Christmas parties, Ms Cordery said it was a ‘tricky and challenging issue’. 

She said: ‘People will be taking their own decisions. We know that many NHS trusts are, for example, asking their staff not to mix in big groups in the run up to Christmas because of the potential threat to their health and what they will be available to do.   

‘So, they are setting one example there. I think at the moment without that advice from Government, I think it is for individuals and individual organisations to think about what they will be doing in the run up to Christmas. 

‘But it is a really challenging and difficult one.

‘The thing we can encourage everyone to do is to go out and get their booster when it’s made available to them and to book in for that because that’s one of the best defences that we’ve got alongside wearing masks, washing your hands and also making sure you’re in ventilated rooms.’

And the two people who reported feeling unwell had ‘very, very mild’ symptoms, she said.

It is ‘unfair’ to treat Botswana as ground zero of the new variant, Dr Smith-Lawrence added.

And doctors in South Africa, where most confirmed cases are concentrated, last week reported that Omicron cases were suffering mild symptoms.  

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and less severe symptoms than those infected with Delta.

Symptoms included tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But no patients reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties, she said. 

But hospitalisations in South Africa have soared 403 per cent in a week, which leading virologist Tulio de Oliveira described the surge in infections as ‘scary’. 

A total of 42,664 tests were conducted in yesterday, with 4,373 new cases reported, data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa revealed — equating to a 10 per cent positivity rate. 

For comparison, the UK daily Covid cases dropped 6.5 per cent in a week, while around four per cent of those tested were infected with Covid.

Infections in South Africa have increased 92 per cent compared to the 2,273 cases recorded on Monday and a massive 403 per cent week-on-week increase, with 868 cases recorded last Tuesday.

Scientists in the country have warned that the vast majority of people who end up being hospitalised with the Omicron variant are unvaccinated.

Some 23.8 per cent of South Africa’s entire population is double-jabbed, compared to 67.9 per cent of Britons, according to Our World in Data.  

In other UK Covid developments, Tory MPs have blasted the Government after it emerged new rules on self-isolation will be enshrined in law until March, sparking fears the curbs could remain in place far beyond a promised three week review.

A new restriction came into force yesterday which will require people who have been in contact with a case of the Omicron coronavirus variant to self-isolate for 10 days or risk a fine of up to £10,000.

Boris Johnson has said that rule, along with requirements to wear face masks in shops and on public transport and for returning travellers to take a PCR test on or before day two after arrival, will be reviewed before Christmas.

But the regulations underpinning the self-isolation rule are not due to expire until March 24, prompting a backlash from anti-lockdown Tories.

Conservative MPs have expressed concerns that the new rule could cause a fresh ‘pingdemic’ which could devastate the economy and education system.

Ministers were also accused of scaring businesses into sending staff home through December and cancelling Christmas parties because of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 as SAGE scientists called for all UK arrivals to be forced to quarantine for five days and take a pre-departure PCR test even if they are fully vaccinated.   

In rules now enshrined in law until March, Boris Johnson said face coverings must be worn in shops and on public transport to ‘buy us time in the face of this new variant’ while he pledged to ‘throw everything’ at the booster vaccination campaign and offer jabs to 40million over-18s by the end of January to tackle its spread. 

But in the same Downing Street press conference last night the Prime Minister insisted another lockdown is ‘extremely unlikely’, urging people not to cancel their plans and to ‘keep living your life’.

Critics say the Government’s latest Covid rules on masks, blanket quarantine for Omicron contacts and gloomy language about the threat of the new variant is actually encouraging a semi-lockdown by stealth despite just 32 cases of the new strain detected so far. 

Deaths, infections and hospitalisations were all down in the UK yesterday.

Amid accusations of mixed messages Sajid Javid also encouraged millions of people to be ‘sensible’ and ‘cautious’ about attending Christmas parties and to take a lateral flow test before going to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. 

There are also ‘no guarantees’ that there won’t be a lockdown this Christmas, the Health Secretary has warned. 

And there was more chaos yesterday after UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief Dr Jenny Harries said people should limit socialising in December. This sparked suspicion among Tory MPs that she was being set up as the fall guy by ministers who are too scared to admit further restrictions are likely.   


Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson clashed over new Covid rules at PMQs this lunchtime as the PM faced a revolt from Tory MPs

Christmas parties are now being axed – costing pubs and clubs billions of pounds – and if the parties are still going ahead attendees are being told by their bosses to take a lateral flow test on the morning of the event and wear masks. Schools cancelled nativity plays and fairs while councils even axed Santa visits for vulnerable children. 

Today Brewin Dolphin, one of the largest British wealth management firms in the UK, told staff in London they can stay away from the office from December 10 until January 7, MailOnline can reveal. Staff should not feel uncomfortable declining invites to events before December 25, bosses also said. 

Google has emailed UK staff urging them to ‘move any planned in-person social gatherings until 2022’ and limiting them to no more than 15 people. Ronan Harris, Vice President and MD for Google UK & Ireland, also told workers that face-to-face business meetings and events must be approved by a company director. 

And despite Government guidance saying otherwise, many UK companies have scrambled to reinstate office restrictions including mask wearing in communal areas such as corridors and lifts. Insurance giant Aviva is introducing daily lateral flow tests for employees. EY is one of a number of big businesses asking staff to wear face coverings when not at their desks.

Virgin Media has said it was reviewing its office measures while Martin Sorrell, chief executive of ad agency S4 Capital, said his firm will be showing ‘even more attention to testing, masks, vaccination, office layout and working from home’.

Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope has claimed the Prime Minister’s regulations are ‘part of a scaremongering propaganda campaign that is really designed to restrict or stop interaction between social animals. They’re designed to suppress freedom of the individual and suppress social contact, and they’re doing that through unreasonable fear-mongering.’

Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said: ‘I have received several emails from travel companies in my constituency whose potential bookings have dropped off a cliff because of the cost of PCR tests’, adding encouragement back towards working from home will be devastating for businesses relying on office workers. 

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘It would be helpful if the Government provided some clearer guidance. It is unclear what they want people to do’.

Ursula von der Leyen says it is ‘time to think about mandatory vaccination’ across the ENTIRE EU

It is time for the European Union ‘to think about’ making Covid vaccines mandatory across the entire bloc, Ursula von der Leyen has said as the continent battles a winter wave of virus amid fears about the Omicron variant. 

The EU Commission President, speaking in Brussels, said it will ultimately be up to member states to decide their own vaccine rules – but it is her ‘personal opinion’ that the time is right to discuss forcing people to get jabs.

‘We have one third of the population which is not vaccinated. This is 150million people – that is a lot. Not each and every one could be vaccinated… but the vast majority could,’ she said.

Ms Von der Leyen’s comments come after Austria announced plans to make vaccines mandatory for all eligible citizens by February, with an aide to incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying yesterday that he wants to follow suit.  

Pubs and clubs have reported a slew of last minute cancellations since Mr Johnson’s first TV press conference on Saturday as hospitality businesses lined up to warn the Prime Minister that the chilling effect of Covid restrictions will cost the economy ‘billions’ in the run-up to Christmas. Many big businesses are not holding big parties this year. Those that are will demand a negative Covid test result for all attendees. 

All UK arrivals should be forced to quarantine for five days and take a pre-departure PCR test even if they are vaccinated, SAGE has advised.

The expert panel warned the current travel curbs were allowing ‘significant’ numbers of infected people to slip through the cracks.

Currently, fully vaccinated people coming into the UK need to take a PCR test within the first two days of returning to the UK.

There is nothing stopping them taking this as soon as they land and getting a result on the same day, releasing them from isolation in hours.

SAGE scientists said this might not give enough time for the virus to incubate. They also called for ministers to bring in day five and day eight tests.

Only unvaccinated people coming into the UK have to take ‘fit to fly’ tests before getting on a plane back to Britain.

SAGE’s new advice was leaked from minutes of an emergency meeting about the new Omicron variant held on Monday.

More than 30 scientists attended the video conference on November 29, led by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty.

They also said Britain should brace for a ‘potentially very significant wave with associated hospitalisations’ this winter if the worst estimates about Omicron turn out to be true.

Boris Johnson tightened travel rules yesterday to require arrivals to self-isolate until they get a negative PCR test result.

But Ms Cooper said it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that ministers were failing to heed advice from their own scientists to impose more curbs at the border.

Festive flights to US in jeopardy? Brits face Covid test 24 hours before take-off and could have to isolate for SEVEN DAYS on arrival

British families looking forward to Christmas holidays in the US face having their plans thrown into chaos as Joe Biden considers tougher entry requirements – including forcing arrivals to quarantine for seven days.

Fully-vaccinated travellers from all countries may now have to take a PCR or lateral flow test within a day of departure – a reduction from the current three days, according to a plan discussed by US officials.

The President is also considering whether to require air travellers to get another Covid-19 test within three to five days after arriving in the United States, three anonymous health officials told the Washington Post.

In addition, the US is debating whether all passengers must quarantine for seven days, even with negative test results – which would deal a crippling blow to the travel industry and force thousands of Britons to cancel trips. Those who flout the requirements could face fines.  

The Government rejected calls for up to eight-day self-isolation for vaccinated arrivals this week, arguing it would have a ‘detrimental’ impact on the travel industry. 

Airline bosses warned that restrictive new testing requirements since the emergence of the latest strain was putting put the industry’s fragile recovery at risk. Bookings have weakened and fears are rising that carriers could see a wave of cancellations.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the uncertainty caused by the mixed messages was damaging business.

‘It is surreal and extremely frustrating to see healthcare advisers publicly telling people not to socialise, giving unnecessary uncertainty to our customers and workforce,’ he said.

 ‘At the very moment operating costs are at their highest, we are now faced with another poorly conceived communications strategy from Government which has and will severely impact businesses.

‘Christmas bookings and advance ticket sales have already been hit following the announcement of the new Omicron variant.’ 

Mr Johnson rejected the advice of Dr Harries to limit festive socialising, pointing out it is not included in formal guidance, as he told people they do not need to cancel Christmas parties or school nativity plays.  

Mr Javid echoed the PM’s position this morning as he said people ‘should continue to behave in the way that they were planning to behave over Christmas’ and ‘I don’t think there is any need to change those plans’.

However, the Health Secretary risked further confusion after he said he would take a Covid test before attending a Christmas party. 

He said that testing before a party is ‘not a formal recommendation in the guidance’ but he would take a test if he was attending such an event as a ‘sensible precaution’. 

It came as Mr Johnson was grilled by Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs over claims that the Prime Minister and his Downing Street staff broke Covid rules by holding two festive gatherings in Number 10 in 2020. 

The Daily Mirror reported that the PM gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the midst of the second lockdown. Members of his Number 10 team apparently then held their own festive party days before Christmas, while London was subject to Tier 3 Covid restrictions.

Mr Johnson did not deny that a party had taken place but said ‘all guidance was followed completely’ as Sir Keir accused the PM of ‘taking the British public for fools’.     

‘There is the need to self-isolate if you come into contact with someone with Omicron.’

The Health Secretary was also asked if people should take a coronavirus test before attending a Christmas party. 

He replied: ‘I would. I would. It is not a formal recommendation in the guidance but if I was going to a party with lots of party and things I would.

‘But I would have done that by the way even before we knew about this variant.

‘Again, the reason I would have done that is because it is getting cold, it is getting darker, we are spending more time indoors, probably more people indoors than before just because of the colder, darker days, so a sensible precaution that everyone can take.’ 

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people should be ‘sensible’ of they attend a Christmas party. 

He said: ‘If you are invited to a Christmas party, there’s quite a few people there, maybe you want to take an LFT (lateral flow test) test before you go. Go to the party, but just be cautious.’

Asked if he would wear a mask if he was at a party, Mr Javid said: ‘It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.’

The Cabinet minister defended the Government’s decision to make face coverings compulsory on public transport and in shops in England but not in hospitality settings.

‘The job of government is to listen to expert advice and then make a balanced and proportionate judgment. That’s what we’ve done,’ he said.

‘We’ve acted swiftly. But I think what we’ve said on face coverings and the other measures that we have taken is a balanced and proportionate approach.’ 

The Government has said the new rules on self-isolation, face masks and travel testing which came into effect from 4am yesterday will buy scientists some time to analyse the Omicron variant and to determine if vaccines are effective against it.    

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