Boris Johnson brings England’s mask rules back into line with Wales after Omicron cases found
Boris Johnson has said that England’s rules on masks will be brought back into line with Wales after two cases of the new variant Omicron was found in the country.
He said that full says details of the changes will be set out by Health Secretary Sajid Javid early next week, and would include compulsory masks on public transport and in shops.
The Prime Minister made the announcement amid a number of new measures to be introduced in England, following the announcement of the new variant of concern.
Arrivals in England will have to take a PCR test by the end of day two of their arrival, and travellers must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. The Welsh and Scottish Governments have tended to move in tandem with England on international travel.
Anyone found to have the new variant Omicron will have to self-isolate whether they have had the coronavirus jab or not.
The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) will consider giving boosters to a wider age group, as well as reducing the gap between the second dose and booster. All governments in the UK have in the past tended to follow their advice closely.
There was no mention of the Covid passes that have been introduced in Wales after the past two months.
“We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together,” Boris Johnson said.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that it was not yet clear whether the variant can escape the vaccine but evidence suggested there was “a reasonable chance” of that.
England’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, had said earlier that the UK Health Security Agency had detected two linked cases in Chelmsford and in Nottingham, who are now self-isolating.
Both cases were identified due to overnight sequencing. Targeted testing will now be rolled out in both areas in an attempt to contain the spread.
Sajid Javid said he had been notified on Friday night that the cases had been detected. He added that the booster vaccines were “even more important” as a result of this discovery.
“We don’t know much about this new variant yet, we know it is out there, but what we do know is that the protections we do have – especially the vaccines – are hugely important,” he said.
He had earlier taken to social media to post an alert about the new virus.
“We have been made aware by UKHSA of two UK cases of the Omicron variant,” he said. “The two cases are linked and there is a connection with travel to southern Africa.
“These individuals are self-isolating with their households while further testing and contact tracing is underway.”
The Welsh Government are yet to comment on the new variant, but Vaughan Gething had said in a press conference this week that restrictions like those seen last year might be needed in a “vaccine busting variant” was encountered.
The next three-week review falls on December 10th and will take in the Christmas period and up until New Year’s eve.