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The wearing of face coverings is to become mandatory once again in shops and on public transport from the 30th November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in a televised press briefing, as part of the government’s response the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
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. Exemptions on medical grounds and for young children will apply.
In his press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
In addition to the measures we are already taking to locate those who have been in countries of concern over the last ten days, we will require all contacts of those who test positive – with a suspected case of Omicron – to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of your vaccination status.
We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant, by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.
And third – and most importantly – we need to bolster our protections against this new variant.
We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron, but we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection.
And if you are boosted – your response is likely to be stronger.
So it’s more vital than ever that people get their jabs, and we get those boosters into arms as fast as possible.
Travel restrictions were reintroduced on passengers entering the UK from South Africa, Botswana and neighbouring African countries where the virus variant was first identified. From Tuesday, enhanced testing requirements will also be in place for travellers entering the UK.
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 the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.
A number of cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in the UK, and six of these individuals in Scotland have no links to regions where the virus is known to be circulating, indicating that community transmission may already be occurring in the UK.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:
Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread. It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focussed contact tracing.
We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.
It’s critical that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.
Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second or booster jab without delay. Wear a mask in crowded places, including public transport and shops, to ensure we all help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.
Those aged 40 or over can now book a booster up to a month in advance to have their top-up jab six months after their second vaccination by calling 119 or booking on the national booking site. Over 16s can also now book for their second dose 12 weeks after receiving their first by calling the same number or booking on the website.
Anyone over 12 can also attend a new vaccination walk in centre for first, second or booster doses launched at the One Stockport Hub, at Mersey Square, SK1 1RA, offering Covid vaccinations without the need to book. It opens every week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 10am until 3pm, until Saturday, 18 December. New clinics can also be booked for 12–15-year-olds with the next on Saturday, 27 November, from 9.30am to 3.30pm at Westmorland Primary School, Brinnington, SK5 8HH, which is also open to eligible adults. To find out where else to book a vaccine in Stockport visit the NHS Stockport CCG website.