Health Minister Sajid Javid today confirmed the discovery of two cases of the Omicron Covid strain as four countries were added to the UK’s red travel list.
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Sajid Javid says vaccines may be less effective against new mutations
The first cases of a new strain of Omicron Covid have been found in the UK, which experts fear may pose “significant” new risks.
Health Minister Sajid Javid confirmed this afternoon that two people each in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham, each tested positive for the strain.
He said there will be targeted testing in the two regions where the mutation was found.
Four countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola – have announced they will be added to the UK’s red travel list starting tomorrow at 4am.
Javid has urged people to vaccinate again, saying he will take steps, including surge testing, to protect the public from “an emerging threat.”
Authorities in Germany and the Czech Republic earlier today said suspected cases of the variant were found after Belgium yesterday became the first country in Europe to identify the variant.
Scientists are rushing to see if Omicron is more contagious than previous versions of the virus and whether it evades vaccines.
It has been designated by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern, but earlier today, SAGE scientists say it appears to be no less lethal.
Javid has previously warned that the new strain may be more contagious than the Delta strain.
Also known as B.1.1.529, it is already known as the most evolved with 50 mutations, and has been described as “the worst one I’ve ever seen”.
The first cases of a related Covid strain have now been reported in the UK (
Countries are desperately tightening travel restrictions after a novel coronavirus strain is identified.
The UK was one of those countries that hastened stricter quarantine measures and banned all flights from South Africa and neighboring countries.
Until the middle of this week, the confirmed cases were mainly in South Africa, but also in Hong Kong, Israel and Botswana.
Javid said in a statement released by the Ministry of Health today: Thanks to our world-class genome sequencing, we are aware of two UK cases of Omicron mutations. We moved quickly and individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing.
We will do our best to protect the UK public from this new threat, which is why we are expanding our testing capacity to affected communities and introducing travel restrictions to four additional countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola. . If necessary, we will not hesitate to take further action.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said two variants were found in the UK.
PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
This reminds us that we are not yet out of this pandemic. Vaccination is more important than ever. Get your first dose if you haven’t already, and if you’re eligible, book a booster as soon as possible.
The UK’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said experts are working hard to determine if the mutation is the cause of the warning.
He said: We will continue to work closely with the international community to quickly gather and analyze information about this strain to understand its potential for increased transmission or vaccine resistance.
It is important for everyone to take reasonable precautions and get PCR tested if they are symptomatic, isolate if requested, wear a face covering in crowded and confined spaces, ventilate the room, and get vaccines and boosters as soon as possible .
Earlier today, SAGE scientist Professor Calum Semple told the BBC Breakfast that the Omicron variant would reach the UK “by hook or by crook”.
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Professor Semple said he hopes that Omicron, first identified by scientists in South Africa, won’t escape a vaccine.
“It’s very early days and we only knew about this virus for a few weeks,” he said.
“The evidence is that it doesn’t cause more deaths, and that’s important.
“The problem this may present is that some vaccines may be avoided, but not a booster or two appropriate doses.”
He encouraged people to go and get a coronavirus booster vaccine.
Professor Semile added: “The virus will come here through hooks or scammers, and eventually people will come here because they are asymptomatic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to slow it down.”
Transport Minister Grant Shops said Britain was simply “buying time” by closing its borders.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that it will take weeks to understand the impact of the new strain.
“We are concerned that this new mutation could pose significant public health risks,” Javid told MP. “The mutation carries an unusually high number of mutations.”
“This strain reminds all of us that this pandemic is not over.
“We must continue to act cautiously and do everything we can to contain this virus, including those who qualify for booster vaccinations.”
New Covid strain poses “significant risk to public health” (
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said: “At first you can see that there are various mutations. There are 30 mutations that seem to be relevant. twice as much,” he said.
“And if you look at those mutations as mutations that increase infectivity, mutations that evade the immune response in both vaccine and natural immunity, mutations that increase infectivity, it’s a very complex mutation.
“We don’t know how to interact in common because there are new things we’ve never seen before.
“So all of this makes the variant quite complex and challenging, and I think we need to learn more about it before we can definitively say the most complex variant before.”
Transport Minister Grant Shoppes said last week that the UK is simply “buying time” by adding South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to their travel redlist.
The government is still resisting the move towards Plan B action, but Zavid warned that “if we have to go further, we will do it.”
New Covid strain poses ‘significant risk to public health’ and could avoid vaccine
‘Worried’ new Covid strain could already be in UK, health chief warns
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