Drakeford says Omicron variant “is a serious development” as England announces reintroduction of mandatory face coverings
Further measures are being taken in England to try to contain the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant including the reintroduction of mandatory face coverings in certain settings.
First minister Mark Drakeford has said the discovery of the Omicron variant “is a serious development in the ongoing pandemic.”
Two cases of the new variant, also known as B.1.1.529, were identified in Essex and Nottingham today, targeted testing and contact tracing are now underway.
Early indications suggest this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it.
A rapid rise in infections in South Africa has been attributed to the spread of this new variant of COVID-19.
During a press conference this evening, Johnson announced further measures to try to contain the spread of the new Omicron variant, including face coverings being made compulsory in shops and public transport.
In England, the legal requirement to wear a face covering was dropped in July, apart from in healthcare settings and care homes, unless exempt.
In Wales face coverings have continued to play a key role in keeping people safe and it is a legal requirement for anyone over the age of 11 to wear a face covering in indoor public places such as supermarkets and on public transport but not hospitality settings.
As well as the reintroduction of compulsory face coverings in shops and public transport in England, all international arrivals must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Mark Drakeford said this evening: “I urge everyone in Wales to continue to work together to keep each other safe.”
“Please get your vaccine or booster when offered, wear a mask when necessary, and book a test if you have symptoms.”
He said, across the UK, “we have taken fast action in response to the new omicron variant.”
“But we have repeatedly raised concerns about relaxing international travel rules too quickly due to the risk of introducing new variants to the UK.”
“Wales is bringing in the same international travel measures as the rest of the UK. ”
“The Cabinet will continue to meet this evening and tomorrow to monitor the developing situation and decide if further action is required to protect people’s health.”
The Omicron variant contains a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.
The UK government has said “urgent work” is ongoing internationally to fully understand how these mutations may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.
International efforts are now underway to gather as much data and information as possible about this new variant, with more detailed information expected over the next three weeks.
It is due to South Africa’s extensive surveillance system and transparency that the UK has been able to have early warning of this new variant and begin collecting data.
Travel restrictions have already been implemented to slow the spread of the variant and protect our borders.
From 04:00 Sunday 28 November South Africa, Botswana, Lesostho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola will be added to the UK’s travel red list.
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