Two people in the UK have been found to be infected with Omicron, the new Covid variant which has sparked international panic and mass travel bans, the health secretary has said.
Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency had detected cases in Chelmsford and in Nottingham. The two cases are linked, and connected to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.
Both people are self-isolating alongside their households while more tests and contact tracing takes place.
The new variant has also been discovered in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
Sajid Javid ordered targeted testing in the affected areas and said Boris Johnson will “set out further measures” during a Downing Street press conference later on Saturday.
“We were concerned from the moment we first identified this new variant,” Javid told reporters.
“It’s a deeply concerning new variant and we do need to learn more about it but the fact that we now have these two cases in the United Kingdom does mean we need to take further measures and that’s why I’ve set this out today.”
Javid did not say whether further restrictions could be added ahead of Christmas in light of the new strain, which the World Health Organisation has designated a “variant of concern”.
Instead, he said: “We’ve made a lot of progress, we all want to see that protected and if anyone’s sitting at home thinking what can I do? Get vaccinated.”
Javid said anyone who has travelled in the last 10 days to the 10 countries now on the red list, with Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola being added to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, they must self-isolate and take PCR tests.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “We will continue to work closely with the international community to quickly gather and analyse information on this variant to understand any possible increase in transmissibility or resistance to vaccines.”