Omicron: PCR tests for arrivals to UK, mask rules tightened, and self-isolation reintroduced after variant found in UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a list of new Covid precautionary measures, including restrictions for those arriving in the UK, stricter rules on wearing masks in public places, and a “boost for the booster programme” for vaccination.
In a reunion that Brits won’t have been hoping for, Johnson held a Downing Street press conference alongside the UK’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty this afternoon.
In order to “act early” to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant, after the first two cases were identified in Nottingham and Essex this afternoon, Johnson announced the following new Covid measures:
- Day two PCR tests will be reintroduced for all travellers entering the UK.
“We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that. But we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result,” Johnson said this afternoon.
- Self-isolation will be reintroduced for those with any contact with someone who tests positive for the Omicron variant, regardless of vaccination status.
“We will require all contacts of those with people who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status,” Johnson said.
- Mask wearing will be “ramped up” in shops, on public transport, and in other public indoor settings.
- Johnson said the government is going to “boost the booster campaign.”
“We are looking at increasing the rollout from 6m jabs in the next three weeks, and have asked the JCVI to consider giving boosters to as wide a group as possible, as well as reducing the gap between the second dose and booster,” the PM said.
Asked if the appearance of the new variant, which the World Health Organisation classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern, would get in the way of people’s Christmas plans, Johnson said: “I am pretty confident that this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas – that will be all on that one for the time being.”
Although the PM acknowledged that there were “many things that we don’t know at this early stage” with regards to the Omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa on Wednesday, he was cautious about its nature.
“It does appear it spreads very rapidly and can be spread among people who are double vaccinated,” Johnson said.
“But it does divert quite considerably from other variants in the past, which may mean that people maybe aren’t so protected.”