Last reviewed 29 November 2021

With nine cases already found in the UK, the Government has decided to take immediate action to curb the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant which was detected earlier this month in South Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a “very high” risk globally, and could lead to severe consequences in some regions.

An urgent meeting of G7 Health Ministers, under the UK Presidency, will be convened on Monday 29 November to discuss the development

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that, from 4am on Tuesday 30 November, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that all hospitality settings will be exempt.

In addition, all travellers arriving into the country from 4am on that same date will be required to take a PCR test on or before day two and self-isolate until they have received a negative test result.

These PCR tests can be purchased from private providers, the DHSC notes; free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

“This update adds to the measures rapidly implemented earlier this week to prevent the spread of the new variant including travel restrictions and meaning all close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant are required to isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated,” the DHSC said.

Early indications suggest this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it.

The Government has said that these measures are precautionary and will be reviewed in three weeks.