UPDATE – UK’s Johnson announces measures to fight new COVID variant

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LONDON, Nov 27 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled on Saturday new measures to try to stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant called Omicron, saying all arrivals would have to take a test and it was time to step up booster jabs.

“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 told a news conference.

He said those who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and that the government would tighten up the rules on wearing face coverings.  In fact the government announced that it is tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.

Sky reports that Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific officer, said there are three ways the UK will respond to the variant to limit its impact. 

Speaking about the Omicron variant and its mutations, he said: “The reason this one is worrying is the combination of transmissibility and the potential for some degree of escape from vaccines because of the number of changes.”

He then laid out three ways in which the UK would respond to the variant. 

  • Limit the number of cases that enter the country
  • Try to limit spread within the country
  • Bolster defences, including boosting vaccines to protect against the variant and the anti-viral drugs being developed

Johnson meanwhile said that he was confident that Christmas this year would be “considerably better” than the last one, when the government introduced a lockdown to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“I think I am going to stick with the formula that I’ve used before which is I am pretty confident or absolutely confident that this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas,” he told a news conference. (R

(Reporting by Costas Pitas, writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by William Schomberg)

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