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UK ‘to Ban Travel From More Countries’ As Omnicron Mutant Covid Variant Spreads

Boris Johnson is reportedly set to ban journey from at the least two extra international locations because the Omnicron super-mutant Covid variant spreads.

The plans are geared toward stopping the import of the ‘worst ever’ coronavirus variant, however consultants have mentioned it’s most likely already circulating throughout the UK after being detected in Belgium.

Well being Secretary Sajid Javid mentioned there’s “big worldwide concern” surrounding the pressure after banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to restrict its unfold.

With Moderna “quickly advancing” a booster jab to fight Omicron, Mr Javid advised MPs there are considerations the variant could also be extra transmissible, make current vaccines much less efficient and should hinder one of many UK’s Covid remedies, Ronapreve.

Flights from six international locations in Africa are set to be banned (file photograph)



Ministers had been dealing with calls to impose harder restrictions to stop a wave of the brand new variant arriving in Britain whereas a Delta surge is ongoing, as Belgium turned the primary EU nation to announce a case.

Professor John Edmunds, who advises the Authorities as a part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that might create a “very, very, very tough scenario”.

Ministers had been contemplating including two extra international locations to the journey ‘crimson listing’ on Friday night time, the Daily Mail reported.

A authorities adviser urged Brits needs to be “prepared for the likelihood” of a return to Covid restrictions.

Nevertheless, a senior authorities supply advised the newspaper that “folks mustn’t panic”.

A medical employee cares for Covid sufferers in Brussels (file photograph)


AFP through Getty Pictures)

Within the Netherlands, well being officers mentioned dozens of people that arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday are doubtless contaminated with Covid-19.

They had been conducting additional testing to see if persons are contaminated with the lately found Omicron variant.

Dutch officers estimated that 85 of about 600 passengers had Covid.

Omicron was first found in South Africa and has been designated a “variant of concern” by the World Well being Organisation (WHO). Senior UK scientists had beforehand described it because the ‘worst ever’ Covid variant detected to date.

The WHO warned that preliminary proof suggests the variant, which the organisation named Omicron, has an elevated danger of reinfection and should unfold extra quickly than different strains.

The EU, US and Canada all adopted Britain’s transfer to impose journey restrictions on guests from southern Africa forward of the WHO including the pressure, also called B.1.1.529, to its highest class for regarding variants.

Consultants on the WHO mentioned there’s early proof to recommend Omicron has an “elevated danger of reinfection” and its speedy unfold in South Africa suggests it has a “development benefit”.

No circumstances have been detected within the UK however its arrival in Belgium – after being present in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel – has heightened considerations.

Marc Van Ranst, a virologist on the Rega Institute in Belgium, mentioned a pattern was confirmed because the variant in a traveller who returned from Egypt on November 11 earlier than first exhibiting signs 11 days later.

The six African international locations had been added to the UK’s journey crimson listing on Thursday night and passengers arriving within the UK from these international locations from 4am on Sunday will likely be required to e book and pay for a Authorities-approved resort quarantine for 10 days.

Downing Road urged anybody who has arrived from these international locations lately to get examined.

Mr Javid mentioned discussions are ongoing over the prospect of including additional international locations to the crimson listing, telling the Commons the Authorities “received’t hesitate to behave if we’d like to take action”.

Mr Johnson held a name with South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday afternoon after international minister Naledi Pandor mentioned the flight ban “appears to have been rushed”.

The Prime Minister “counseled South Africa’s speedy genomic sequencing” and its “management in transparently
sharing scientific knowledge”, Downing Road mentioned.

“They mentioned the challenges posed globally by the brand new Covid-19 variant and methods to work collectively to cope with it and reopen worldwide journey,” an announcement mentioned.

Prof Edmunds mentioned the brand new pressure “is a large fear” and that “all the info suggests” it could be capable of evade present immunity.

“Our fears are it could accomplish that to a big extent,” he advised BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

Prof Edmunds urged ministers to have a look at extending journey restrictions and to arrange a plan to cope with Omicron as a result of “in some unspecified time in the future we’re going to get this variant right here within the UK”.

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He urged mass testing and native restrictions should be checked out whereas different preparations might embody making the booster programme extra speedy, maybe by lowering the hole between second and third doses, and widening it to youthful age teams.

“Even the vaccines don’t work notably nicely towards this new variant, they do towards Delta, and we’re nonetheless combating a Delta wave and we definitely don’t wish to be combating each on the identical time,” he mentioned.

“There are issues we are able to do and we have to get on with it very quickly.”

The Authorities mentioned as of 9am on Friday, there had been an extra 50,091 lab-confirmed Covid-19 circumstances within the UK, the best reported each day determine since October 21.

It additionally mentioned an extra 160 folks had died inside 28 days of testing constructive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK complete to 144,593.

South African scientists worry the variant is behind a dramatic rise in circumstances in some areas, together with Gauteng province, which incorporates the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which has produced a vaccine towards Covid-19, is already learning the brand new variant’s capability to evade vaccines.

Consultants have mentioned vaccines might be tweaked to deal with new variants as they emerge.

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