Omicron: Third case of new variant confirmed in UK, say health officials

In England, face masks will be mandatory in shops and on public transport, while schoolchildren are to wear them in communal areas as part of measures to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, reports ITV News Reporter Chloe Keedy

A third case of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant has been confirmed in the UK, said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The person tested positive for the variant after arriving in the UK and the case is linked to travel to southern Africa.

The UKHSA said the person was in Westminster, central London, during their stay but is no longer in the UK.

Targeted testing is now being carried out at locations the person visited in the country when they were likely to have been infectious.

The latest confirmed case came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Saturday that two cases had been reported in Brentwood, Essex, and in Nottingham.

As part of new measures to curb the spread of the variant - which officials have said vaccines may be less effective against - the government has again made face masks mandatory in shops and on public transport in England from Tuesday.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa Credit: Denis Farrell/AP

Pupils in Year 7 and above, as well as their teachers, will be "strongly advised" to wear face coverings in communal areas in schools and colleges from Monday.

The Department of Health and Social Care said an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers will be held on Monday to discuss the spread of the new variant.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, said "it is very likely" the UK will find more cases of the new variant "over the coming days, as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing."

“Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread," she added.

Dr Harries said scientists and experts are "continuing efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy".

She urged people to take a PCR test if they develop symptoms and for the unvaccinated to get their 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,” added DR Harries.