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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Covid: Face coverings to be mandatory again in shops and on public transport after two cases of new variant found in UK

Tighter Covid measures are set to take place tomorrow after two UK cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected.

At a press conference on Saturday the PM said face coverings would be mandatory again in shops and on public transport in England from next week.

Mr Johnson however, said hospitality will be exempt from the rule change, and further details are due to be outlined by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid in the ‘next day or so’.

The rules surrounding face masks were relaxed in England in July.

PCR tests for everyone entering the UK will be introduced and all contacts of new variant cases will have to self-isolate, even if fully jabbed.

But Boris Johnson said Christmas would be “considerably better” than in 2020 indicating that the measures, which include reinstating the travel red list with mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 countries, were “temporary and precautionary”.

The new restrictions come after it was confirmed that two Omicron cases had been detected in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham. Officials said the cases were linked and connected to travel in southern Africa.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, face coverings are already mandatory on public transport and many indoor areas.

The new variant was first reported from South Africa on Wednesday, with early evidence suggesting it has a higher reinfection risk.

Mr Johnson said: “Our scientists are learning more hour by hour, and it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.”

He added: “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.”

Labour’s shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who is currently self-isolating has tweeted: “Moving with speed is crucial to get ahead of #Omicron. We’ve long advocated mask wearing in crowded areas but also need; Speeded up vaccine campaign, clarity from MHRA on antiviral drug paxlovid and plan for roll out, decent sick pay and ventilation, especially in schools.”

 

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