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Five cases of Omicron variant found in England taking total UK infections to 11
29 November 2021, 15:40 | Updated: 29 November 2021, 18:33
Five cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in England now, along with six in Scotland, taking the UK's total to 11.
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In Scotland, four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, the Scottish Government confirmed on Monday.
Meanwhile, five cases have now been confirmed in England - with the first two in Nottingham and Essex.
Officials have been ordering PCR tests for customers of a KFC in Brentwood, Essex, as far back as November 19.
On Monday, it was announced by government experts that all adults should be offered a booster vaccine dose while young people aged between 12 and 15 should get their second shot, three months after their first. The move is a response to the variant's rise.
Essex County Council confirmed there is a link to Larchwood Primary School, based in Pilgrims Hatch, to the known Omicron case in Brentwood.
One class has been moved to remote learning as a result, and specialist testing has been made available for all pupil and school staff.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told the House of Commons on Monday: "We expect cases to rise over the coming days.
"The new variant has also been spreading across the world. Confirmed cases have been reported in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal.
"In this race between the vaccines and the virus, the new variant may have given the virus extra legs."
Scotland's Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said this will be a "worrying time" for those identified as having the new variant.
He said all six confirmed cases will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.
“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant," said Mr Yousaf.
"Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information. Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.
“We have already taken steps and are aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK Government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.
"These measures will be introduced as soon as possible and kept under constant review. However, we reserve the right to go further if necessary. We are also adopting the expanded red list of countries identified by the UK Government. This will also be kept under review."
Mr Yousaf urged Scots to "redouble their efforts" to follow rules around face coverings on public transport and in all indoor settings for food and retail.
He reminded people to open windows especially and to keep washing hands regularly and thoroughly.
"Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with others outside your household," he continued.
It is "very likely" that further cases of Omicron in the UK will be detected in the coming days, according to Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid told families they should plan for a "great" Christmas "as normal" and insisted it was "nowhere near" time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance.
Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Health Minister Ed Argar said the new restrictions - which are set to come into force on Tuesday - will "buy us time" as we learn more about the new variant.
He told Nick he is still making Christmas plans, despite the Omicron variant casting doubt on festive plans.
"I am still planning and looking forward to seeing friends and family over Christmas but what we are doing now is hopefully what will help make that possible," he said.
"So I am still planning on that basis.
"The other thing I would say to people is, when you are eligible get your booster, because that is still a hugely important part of beating this virus."
In order to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the government is considering expanding the booster vaccine programme to all over-18s.
A decision from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) could come as early as Monday.