Government Takes Decisive Action Against New Covid Variant

Temporary and precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant in the UK will come into force on Tuesday, the government has confirmed.

From 4am Tuesday 30 November face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.

All travellers arriving into the country from 4am on Tuesday 30 November will be required to take a PCR test on or before day 2 and self isolate until they have received a negative test result. These PCR tests can be purchased from private providers. Free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

Under the UK presidency an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers will also be convened on Monday 29 November to discuss the developments on Omicron.

This update adds to the measures rapidly implemented earlier this week to prevent the spread of the new variant including travel restrictions and meaning all close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant are required to isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

Responding to the No 10 press conference on the new COVID-19 omicron variant, Dr Layla McCay director of policy at the NHS Confederation said:

“There is still much we don’t know about the new omicron variant of coronavirus. It is reassuring to see the speed at which scientists across the globe are working to understand it, and the speed at which local public health teams are working to contain the two case we have identified so far in the UK via contract tracing.

“Health leaders are already very worried about what winter will bring to the NHS as they are seeing record levels of demand for their services including rolling out the vaccination programme. As Government has announced, the wearing of face coverings in retail settings and on public transport will help to limit the spread of this new variant and others. It may be wise to go further.

“In addition, we can all help to reduce the spread of this disease by regularly testing ourselves, wearing masks in enclosed spaces and keeping indoor spaces well ventilated. It is imperative we all make sure we have two doses of coronavirus vaccine and booster or third dose when invited. It is also important to support people to enable them to isolate when needed.

“As we learn more about the omicron variant, it is critical that there is clear communication with the public about what is needed from them and why. Now is not the time for ambiguity.”