UK confirms Omicron spread in the community

DM | Published: 10:43 AM Dec 7 2021
World UK confirms Omicron spread in the community

There is community transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant in multiple regions of England, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.

He told MPs the variant was continuing to spread "here and around the world" and there were now cases here "with no links to international travel".

There have been 336 confirmed cases of the highly-mutated variant across the UK, he said, a rise of 90 from Sunday (05).

There are concerns about how Omicron could interact with current vaccines.

Of the confirmed Omicron cases, 261 were in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales - while Northern Ireland is yet to have a confirmed case.

Javid said that as far as he was aware none of those people had been admitted to hospital.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said the variant was spreading in the community after a number of cases were linked to events including a Steps concert in Glasgow.

Health officials also said last week there was a suggestion of "a small amount" of community transmission in the UK.

Javid said he could not guarantee the variant would not "knock us off our road to recovery", and the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for Omicron.

He said the government did not have a "complete picture" of whether the variant caused more severe disease or not, or how it interacted with current vaccines.

Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, the government has reintroduced the requirement for face coverings to be worn on public transport and in shops, and has planned to expand the rollout of booster vaccinations.

The health secretary said 10,000 vaccinators were being recruited to bolster the booster jabs programme because "when the virus adapts, we must adapt too".

He said 350 military personnel would be deployed in England to help give boosters, and more than 100 in Scotland.

Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called for the government to introduce a "standard response" to future variants emerging from overseas, including stronger border controls, testing and contact-tracing.

The UK has put restrictions on travel from countries in Africa, with Nigeria becoming the 11th country added to the red list. At the weekend, the government said the majority of Omicron cases identified in England thus far had links to overseas travel from South Africa and Nigeria.

Javid said at least 21 Omicron cases in England were linked to travel from Nigeria.

He expects the number of hotel rooms available to international travellers for quarantine to double this week - after issues for those returning to the UK amid a spike in demand.


DM | Published: 10:43 AM Dec 7 2021

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