Omicron covid variant cases found in South West, experts confirm

Experts have rated the variant as "red" for severity of infection and "amber" for transmissibility.

The Omicron covid variant has been identified in the South West, experts have confirmed.

The news came as part of the Health Security Agency's (HSA) announcement yesterday (3 December) that another 75 cases of the variant have been found in England.

This now takes the total number of confirmed cases in England to 104, and the UK as a whole to 134.

Following the news that the Omicron variant had entered the country, Bristol's medical bosses sent out a warning on Wednesday (1 December) urging people to be 'careful' when socialising this Christmas to prevent further spread of this 'variant of concern'.

Cases of Omicron have also been identified in the East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East and West Midlands.

Individuals who have tested positive for the variant and their contacts are being asked by the HSA to self-isolate while they carry out 'targeted testing'.

HSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: "We are continuing to monitor the data closely. Teams nationally and locally are working at pace to identify and trace all close contacts of every Omicron case.

"We have started to see cases where there are no links to travel, suggesting that we have a small amount of community transmission.

The figures came as a risk assessment by the HSA rated the new Omicron variant as "red" for severity of infection and "amber" for transmissibility between humans.

It said the variant - first identified in South Africa - was likely to reduce the protection from both naturally or vaccine-acquired immunity.

However it acknowledged there was so far "insufficient data" to reach firm conclusions.

Dr Harries added: "We are working as fast as possible to gather more evidence about any impact the new variant may have on severity of disease or vaccine effectiveness.

"Until we have this evidence, we must exercise the highest level of caution in drawing conclusions about any significant risks to people's health."

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