Covid: First case of Omicron variant detected in Liverpool as face coverings reintroduced

Presenter's Gamal and Lucy spoke with Professor Matt Ashton, the director of public health in Liverpool, about the first confirmed case in the city.

As face coverings are reintroduced across England, the first case of the Omicron Covid variant has been detected in Liverpool.

The potentially more contagious strain was identified in South Africa just days ago, and has left governments scrambling to stop its spread.

Around 22 cases of Omicron have been identified in the UK so far, and that number is expected to rocket in the coming days.

The director of public health in Liverpool, Professor Matt Ashton, said the news was 'concerning' but not a surprise due to the variant being 'more transmittable.'

He said: "We are expecting more cases to be identified across the country. The action we're taking around our cases are we're in contact with them.

"We're asking them where they've been, who they live with and what work they've got so we can follow up on their close contacts so they can self-isolate and get tested as well. So, we are taking necessary actions to reduce further spread."

Sarah Rogers has been hearing reaction in Preston as face coverings are reintroduced amid a rise in cases of the new variant.

The news of the Covid variant's presence in Liverpool coincides with previous Covid measures around mask wearing being reintroduced in England.

From Tuesday 30 November at 4am masks were made mandatory in many places, including public transport and supermarkets.

The prime minister said it will “buy us time” as scientists get to the bottom of the variant’s threat level.

People wait on the platform at Hunts Cross Station as mask wearing on public transport becomes mandatory again. Credit: PA

Where are face coverings mandatory?

  • supermarkets

  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)

  • takeaways

  • auction houses and retail galleries

  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses

  • estate agents and travel agents

The new variant was first detected in South Africa. Credit: PA
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (such as hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing studios)

  • pharmacies, GP surgeries and vets

  • taxis and private hire vehicles

  • transport stations and terminals

  • vehicles during driving lessons and tests

Shoppers wearing face masks in Liverpool. Credit: PA

The rules do not stretch to pubs, restaurants or nightclubs.

People can face a £200 fine for not complying with the new rules on face coverings. Some retail leaders say staff in shops can not be expected to enforce them.

Paul Gerrard, from the Coop in Timperley, said: "What we've learned from previous lockdowns is that if we try to do that [enforce masks] that will be a flash point, our colleagues will be at risk.

"What we also know is the police are very, very stretched and if we call for assistance it's likely they're not going to come. Therefore, we're not going to put our colleagues at risk."

ITV cameras gauged early reaction at a supermarket in Timperley, Greater Manchester:

Meanwhile, the booster scheme has been extended to all over-18s in a bid to tackle the new variant, with England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam saying jabs may still protect against severe illness caused by the variant, despite concerns.

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