This morning officials said a further three cases have been identified in Scotland, with a number of “highly likely” infections being examined
Fourteen cases of the Omicron Covid variant have been confirmed in the UK so far, with a number of “highly likely” instances being looked at by experts.
This morning the number of cases announced in Scotland grew by three to nine, following on from two new confirmed cases in London yesterday.
There have so far been three cases linked to the English capital since the unwelcome news on Saturday that the UK’s first two Omicron infections had been confirmed in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham.
Today the Scottish government has announced nine people have been identified with the virus within its borders – five in the Lanarkshire area and four in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Scientists around the world are scrambling to find out whether the new variant is more dangerous and whether vaccines are effective against it.
In a hastily-arranged press conference on Saturday, Boris Johnson announced a raft of measures aimed at stopping the new strain – which was first identified in South Africa – from spreading.
These include compulsory PCR tests for everyone arriving in the UK, the return of face masks in shops and public transport and contacts of those with the Omicron variant ordered to isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccine status.
Last night officials confirmed that two cases had been identified in London.
The individuals who tested positive are not connected to each other and are not linked to the previously confirmed cases.
One case is located in Camden, London, and the other case is located in Wandsworth, London. Both have travel links to southern Africa.
It previously emerged that a person who had been to Westminster but had since left the country, also tested positive for the variant.
Yesterday The Mirror reported that the case in Essex had been linked to a primary school.
Essex County Council posted on Twitter : “Following further contact tracing of the known Omicron Covid-19 case in Brentwood, it has been confirmed that there is a link to Larchwood Primary School based in Pilgrims Hatch.”
Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “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 focused contact tracing.
“That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.”
Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf this morning said there was no established link between Cop26 or the South Africa rugby match and the Omicron cases.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “There’s nothing that links these cases or indeed the variant back to Cop26 or indeed the rugby match.”
He added: “There’s nothing that indicates these cases or this new variant has come via the rugby or Cop26 but that work of course is still ongoing .”
Asked if the Government might tighten up England’s rules even further in the next three weeks, minister Edward Argar said: “It’s not something I’m anticipating.”
Dr Harries said there is a current period “of great uncertainty” in understanding the new Omicron variant.
She told BBC Breakfast the booster dose of vaccine will “we hope, to some extent, counter the potential drop in vaccine effectiveness we might find with this variant”.
Asked whether the UK will see a return to work from home guidance, she said: “The whole point about the booster programme and the introduction of mandatory face mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces is exactly to try and avoid that because we’ve made huge progress, we have great defences and, in the background, the dominant strain in the UK at the moment is very definitely Delta.
“So these vaccines will help that, it will keep serious infection, serious disease and hospitalisations at bay, but we do need this time to try and understand the new variant, and we would much prefer that we have that precautionary approach and then take appropriate actions.”
Boris Johnson will give a Downing Street press conference this afternoon after new measures took force to tackle the Omicron variant.
The Prime Minister will speak after a flurry of announcements over the weekend as scientists found 11 cases of the strain with more than 30 mutations in the UK – with more cases expected to follow.
He is expected to speak about the new compulsory face mask rules which took effect in England from 4am today.
Mr Johnson will urge people to get their booster vaccines after the rollout was extended to all over-18s and the gap between second and third doses halved to three months.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.