International COVID 19 COVID-19 | Omicron: Two cases of new variant confirmed in Britain, mask-wearing...

COVID-19 | Omicron: Two cases of new variant confirmed in Britain, mask-wearing mandatory again

“Our scientists are learning more hour by hour, and it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.” — Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

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London — Two linked cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant of concern have been detected in Britain, said health minister Sajid Javid on Saturday (Nov 27).

The World Health Organization tagged Omicron as a variant of concern, indicating a higher risk of transmission than previous variants, on Friday (Nov 26) after it was first detected in South Africa.

Since the start of November, it was reported that the number of daily Covid-19 cases in South Africa had increased tenfold, making it the hardest-hit country in the continent.

Omicron is said to have “a very high number of mutations and unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections,” according to virologist Tulio de Oliveira.

As a result, South Africa was placed on England’s red list travel restrictions, with scientists noting the variant may be the worst yet identified.

In addition to South Africa, England also added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe to the list.

British and Irish residents travelling from the countries on the red list are required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, while non-residents are refused entry.

Speaking to The Independent Singapore, a reader who currently resides in London shared that they would get scolded for walking around in public while wearing a face mask.

“You’re walking in fresh air, you f**king muppet,” shouted a random passerby on one occasion.

The individual highlighted concerns that the lack of social responsibility could result in a high transmission rate of the virus.

In what was termed “Freedom Day,” the UK government removed almost all of its Covid-19 restrictions on Jul 19 this year amid a high vaccination rate.

This meant that mask-wearing and social distancing were no longer required in public.

However, the confirmation of the Omicron variant has caused the government to revert to its decision.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that masks would be reintroduced in shops and on public transport in England beginning Monday (Nov 29).

Furthermore, everyone entering the UK will need to take PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests while contacts of the new variant cases must self-isolate even if fully vaccinated.

“Our scientists are learning more hour by hour, and it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated,” said Mr Johnson in a BBC report.

He noted that the measures are “temporary and precautionary,” adding a “considerably better” Christmas than in 2020.

To date, the Omicron variant has not been detected in Singapore.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) also announced new restrictions on travellers from several African countries.

All travellers with recent travel history to Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will from 11:59 pm on Saturday no longer be allowed entry into or transit through Singapore.

The restrictions also apply to those who have previously obtained approval for entry into Singapore if they have been in the listed countries in the past 14 days.

Meanwhile, returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents are required to serve a 10-day stay-home notice upon arrival at dedicated facilities. /TISG

Read related: COVID-19 | New S. African variant causes surge, SG sets travel ban on 7 African countries

COVID-19 | New S. African variant causes surge, SG sets travel ban on 7 African countries

 

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