UK imposes masks and PCR tests for arrivals to stem Omicron seeding – POLITICO


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new measures to try to contain the spread of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus, including PCR tests for passengers arriving in the country, face coverings in shops and more auto- isolation.

“We are not going to prevent people from traveling,” he said at a press conference on Saturday. “But we will require anyone entering the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving and self-isolate until they test negative.”

However, “border measures can only minimize and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it altogether,” he said.

Therefore, close contacts of all those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron will have to self-isolate for 10 days, “regardless of their vaccination status”. This includes anyone who has arrived within the last 10 days from one of the 10 southern African countries newly placed on the UK’s travel “red list” and who has tested positive.

Regarding masks, Johnson said: “We will also go further by asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by strengthening the rules on face coverings in stores and on public transport. “

Urged to clarify, he added: “We are coming back to a position where we will have to wear them” in these settings. A press release confirmed that this would come into effect “from next week.”

The conference came just hours after the British Health Safety Agency announced that the first two cases of the new variant had been identified in the country among passengers arriving from South Africa. Germany and Italy also announced that the first cases were discovered on Saturday among the newly arrived travelers.

The Omicron, first discovered in South Africa, was named as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Friday.

Johnson said the new risk required people to get the full vaccine. “We will strengthen the recall campaign,” he said. The government has asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization “to consider offering boosters to as large a group as possible, as well as closing the gap between your second dose and your booster,” he said. -he declares.

Booster Jabs are currently offered to everyone over 40.

When asked why the country is not introducing tougher measures, Johnson said this was the right approach for Omicron “given the uncertainties.” He said it was important at this time to prevent the “seeding” of the virus in the country.

The measures will be reviewed in three weeks, Johnson explained.

Fast dissemination

Scientists are learning more “hour by hour” about the Omicron variant, the prime minister said.

“It appears that Omicron is spreading very quickly and can spread between people who have been doubly vaccinated,” he said. Given the widespread mutations of the variant, “this could at least in part reduce the protection of our vaccines over time,” the Prime Minister added.

The chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance however underlined that there were “reasons to be much less concerned in the long term”, because vaccines currently work and they are “very changeable”.

Vallance also touched on new antiviral drugs coming up, “So we have a lot more arsenal than months ago, and we’re certainly in a totally transformed picture compared to a year ago.”

Omicron was first detected in Europe in Belgium on Friday. Dutch authorities said on Saturday that 61 travelers from South Africa had tested positive for the coronavirus, and researchers are checking whether it is the Omicron variant. Kai Klose, Minister President of the German Land of Hesse, Friday evening tweeted that “several typical Omicron mutations were found” in a passenger returning from South Africa, but full genetic sequencing is still pending. Other countries are also investigating possible cases.

The European Union decided on Friday to ban travel from seven southern African countries. The United States and several other countries are taking similar action.

The UK is adding Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola to its “red list” of travel from Sunday morning. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini were added to the list on Friday, resulting in a temporary suspension of flights and strict checks on travelers.

Residents outside the UK or Ireland who have stayed in these countries in the last 10 days will be refused entry to England. UK and Irish residents must self-isolate in a government approved facility for 10 days.

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