Two cases of the super-mutant Omicron Covid variant have been detected in the UK, the Health Secretary has announced. 

Sajid Javid wrote on Twitter this afternoon: ‘We have been made aware by @UKHSA of two UK cases of the Omicron variant. Both cases are related and have something to do with travel to Southern Africa.

“These people are isolated from their families while more testing and contact traceing takes place.”

The World Health Organisation declared the mutation to be a “variant of concern” last night as six southern African countries, including Britain and the USA, closed their borders to the affected countries.  

This week’s unexpected appearance of the variant caused panic within Whitehall circles. Downing Street scientists warned that it might be resistant to vaccines and Mr Javid threatened to reinstate lockdown, if needed. 

At least 61 new cases of Covid have entered the Netherlands from South Africa as fears mount over the spread of the new super mutant variant.

Around 600 passengers arrived on two planes in Schipol Airport, near Amsterdam, from Johannesburg — the epicentre for the new strain that experts fear is 40 per cent more vaccine evasive than Delta — hours after travel bans were put in place. 

Europe’s first case of the variant was spotted in Belgium yesterday — despite the unvaccinated woman who caught it having travelled to Turkey and Egypt, not souther Africa where the strain emerged.

Both Germany and Czech Republic confirmed today that they had suspected cases. Germany’s first sequencing indicates that the Omicron virus was carried by a South African traveler. Officials will be awaiting the final sequencing of this virus later today. 

And Australian authorities — who also banned travel to nine countries in the region — fear the variant may have already entered the country. 

South Africa reported 2,828 Covid-related cases on Tuesday, which is more than the 1,374 that were recorded on Thursday. But infection levels are still high in South Africa and the number of hospitalisations due to the new variant has not increased.

Today, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard of Oxford, who was one of the scientists that developed the AstraZeneca vaccine expressed cautious optimism about the possibility that vaccines already in place could prevent serious diseases from this variant. According to the UK Health and Security Agency, vaccines are at least 40% less effective in preventing transmission of this strain.

Joe Biden stated yesterday that the US is joining the growing number of countries who have closed their borders. The pandemic won’t end until worldwide vaccinations are available. Kathy Hochul of New York was forced to declare a state emergency yesterday because Covid infection reached levels that were unprecedented since April 2020.

It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to implement fresh travel bans on a host of countries, after Britain halted flights to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe yesterday.

Although experts warned that Britain may face restrictions this Christmas, the Prime Minister believes travel bans will prevent another lockdown.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said he fears Britons will not accept another national lockdown to fight off the variant over the winter because of ‘behavioural fatigue’ caused by two years of restrictions.

Cases of Omicron have already been picked up in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It is not yet known whether the variant arrived in the Netherlands yesterday but Dutch authorities are sequencing passengers' tests. There are also suspected individual cases being sequenced in Germany, the Czech Republic and Australia

Omicron cases were already found in South Africa (Botswana), Hong Kong, Israel, Israel, and Belgium. The variant may have arrived in the Netherlands on yesterday, but it’s not known. However, Dutch authorities are currently sequencing the passengers’ DNA. Individual cases are being sequenced in Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Pictured: Passengers wait on their Covid test results at Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands last night

Pictured: Passengers wait on their Covid test results at Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands last night

South Africa recorded 2,828 new Covid cases yesterday, more than double the 1,374 recorded last Thursday, but infection levels have yet to skyrocket and no hospitalisations with the new variant have occurred so far. Graph shows: The seven-day average  for cases in the country

Yesterday saw 2,828 Covid new cases in South Africa, an increase of more than the 1,374 reported last Thursday. However, infection rates have not risen dramatically and there have been no hospitalisations due to the new variant. Graph shows: The seven-day average  for cases in the country

Red Cross health workers transport passengers infected with coronavirus returning from South Africa for a quarantine in a hotel in Schiphol, the Netherlands, today

Red Cross workers take coronavirus-infected passengers from South Africa to a hospital in Schiphol (the Netherlands) today.

Passengers from KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa wait to be screened at Amsterdam Airport, the Netherlands, yesterday

KLM KL598 passengers departing Cape Town (South Africa) wait to be checked at Amsterdam Airport.

A woman from the KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, queues for her Covid test at Amsterdam Airport last night

A woman from the KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, queues for her Covid test at Amsterdam Airport last night

We know a lot about Omicron. 

Scientists are worried about the B.1.1.529 variation, which is called Omicron by the World Health Organisation, because it contains around 30 mutations, double that of the Delta variant. Not only do the mutations have features that can be found in other variations, but there are also new traits. 

After samples of coronavirus variants were uploaded to tracking websites from South Africa and Hong Kong, UK scientists became aware that the strain was new on November 23, 2012. 

Friday’s confirmation that the cases were identified in Israel and Belgium was confirmed, but there is no evidence of cases currently in the UK.

Good Morning Britain was told Friday by Professor Adam Finn (a member of Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) that sequencing is currently being done in the UK to find out if any cases were imported. 

The new variant is being studied to determine if it may cause new infections in patients who have had coronavirus vaccines or other vaccinations.  

Professor James Naismith of the Rosalind Franklin institute in Oxford has stated that the new variant would ‘almost certainly make vaccines more effective’, but still provide protection.

Pfizer/BioNTech have already produced a vaccine for Covid-19. They are currently studying how the new version can be evaded vaccines. 

Another day of chaos caused by coronavirus

  • A young, unvaccinated woman was the first European victim in Belgium.
  • In the UK, Covid was less popular than ever.
  • A report by the government concluded that you are not at greater risk from Covid if you go to the theatre, or watch a match on television than if your friends do.
  • Experts from South Africa suggested that there were ‘every indication’ vaccines are still effective against this variant.
  • It was speculated that booster jabs would soon be approved by vaccine experts due to the discovery of this strain.
  • In Britain, there were another 50,091 cases of the virus and 160 deaths.

While the authorities examine whether the passengers have contracted the virus, they placed them in quarantine hotels. Some passengers complained about being without water or snacks for long periods of time. 

The Netherlands requires that all persons returning from the EU must show proof of either negative PCR testing 48 hours prior to their return or negative lateral flow tests 24 hours before they arrive. 

Name and contact information for the laboratory, doctor or institute that performed the test must be included in the results.

The record-breaking Covid surge that has swept through the country is causing authorities to close some bars and restaurants in the nation. 

“We now know that 61 results were positive, and 531 negative,” the Dutch Health Authority (GGD), stated in a statement.  

Travellers who have a positive result on their drug test will be isolated in a hotel near Schiphol.

“Of all the positive results from the tests, we are investigating as fast as possible to determine if they are Omicron, the new concern variant.

All air travel leaving southern Africa was banned by the Dutch government on Friday morning. Hugo de Jonge, Health Minister of the Netherlands, stated that all passengers en route to the Netherlands will have to be quarantined and tested upon their arrival.

KLM passengers from Cape Town and Johannesburg said that the planes waited for them on the asphalt for several hours.

Stephanie Nolen was a New York Times journalist who was a passenger on the flight. She wrote, via social media,: “Vigorous Applause because there are a bus which has come to transport us somewhere.”

Later, she tweeted: “Bus from a hallway to a large queue. It is possible to see Covid testers in bright blue PPE from afar. No snacks are available for those poor little babies.

The spokesperson representing the Dutch health authority Kennemerland said that the positive Schiphol cases are being analyzed by an academic hospital in the Netherlands to confirm if they’re the new strain. 

Officials from Germany confirmed today that Omicron’s first suspected case in Germany came from someone from South Africa.

Kai Klose from the west state of Hesse tweeted: “The Omicron variation has with strong likelihood already reached Germany,” Kai Klose said. Kai Klose was referring to the strain that was first discovered in South Africa.

Klose stated that testing on Friday of the South African traveller returning to Germany revealed “several mutations characteristic Omicron”

“As there’s strong suspicion, the individual has been removed from his or her home. This is the final sequence.

Klose’s ministry stated that the individual had entered Germany as the EU’s largest country. He was at Frankfurt International Airport, which is the busiest in the country. 

Passengers sit in their seats aboard KLM Flight 598 on the tarmac at Schipol airport in Amsterdam after it landed from Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday

KLM Flight598 passengers sit on their seats at Schipol airport Schipol in Amsterdam, after landing in Cape Town, South Africa.

Passengers from KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, wait to be screened at Amsterdam Airport yesterday

Yesterday, passengers from KLM flight KL598, Cape Town, South Africa, waited to be checked at Amsterdam Airport.

This chart shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 variant (blue) and Indian 'Delta' variant (red) over time in Guateng province in South Africa, where the virus is most prevalent. It suggests that the mutant strain could outcompete Delta in the province within weeks

This graph shows the percentage of cases with the B.1.1.529 (blue) or Indian “Delta” variants (red). It was taken over the period in Guateng province (South Africa), where the virus has been most widespread. This suggests that Delta could be outcompeted by the mutant strain within weeks.

South Africa is ready for a new wave of infected 

South Africa’s scientists have been trying to stem the spread of the transmissible Omicron version of Covid, which was detected for the first times in South Africa.

Two weeks later, South Africa has gone from being a country with low transmission rates to one that sees a fast increase in confirmed cases.

Despite the fact that numbers are low with only 2,828 confirmed cases on Friday, Omicron has been a fast infecting young South Africans at an alarming rate.

Rudo Mathivha (head of Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital’s intensive care unit) stated that there has been a significant shift in patient demographics with Covid. He spoke to an online media briefing.

“Young adults in their 20s and 30s are being brought in for moderate or severe diseases, with some requiring intensive care. She stated that approximately 65 percent are not currently vaccinated while the majority of those who are are are are are at least half-vaccinated.

“I am concerned that the number of people will increase, and the public health facilities will be overwhelmed.” 

Meanwhile, Sir Andrew today moved to calm fears in Britain, claiming most of the strain’s mutations are in similar regions seen in other variants so far.

According to him, BBC Radio 4’s Today program stated: “That shows you that, despite the mutations present in other variants, vaccines have continued prevent serious diseases as we move through Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

“At the very least, we can be optimistic that this vaccine will still protect against serious diseases. But we must wait for confirmation.

“It is highly unlikely that a pandemic outbreak in the vaccinated population will occur again like what happened last year.”

Professor Pollard stated that a vaccine against Omicron can be developed’very quickly’, if necessary.

“The development of a new vaccine takes place in a well-oiled process, which means that if necessary it could be accomplished very quickly. 

Yesterday, South African experts tried to ease panic by describing the situation as “a storm in a tea cup” yesterday.

Sir John Edmunds from the British vaccine taskforce said the ban on travel will not prevent the virus from reaching Britain, but that it could slow down a possible surge of cases outside the Christmas period in order to preserve the NHS.

However, experts insist that there’s no plausible scenario in which Omicron would take the UK back from’square one’ and have called for calm heads despite the suspension of flights to southern Africa. 

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, told MPs there was “huge international concern” but that vaccines have put Britain in an advantageous position.

Scientists believe that existing vaccines can be modified to combat the disease. Representatives from the World Health Organisation said it was too early to resort to “Plan B”, such as work at home and vaccination passports.

But news of the variant saw the FTSE 100 — the UK’s leading share index — suffer its sharpest drop since January, closing down at 3.7 per cent, spelling alarm for travel companies banking on winter bookings.

According to a senior source in aviation, there are’seriousjitters’ across the entire industry. He added: “There’s a huge question mark about Christmas. The red list is set to grow and it will be a huge knock-on. 

Sources within government claim ministers want to limit travel in order to prevent restrictions at home. This could even mean a significant blow to the industry.

Originally known as the Botswana variant, this strain has been officially identified by WHO as an ‘Omicron’.

Because it contains around 30 mutations that can increase the risk of transmitting, its discovery was significant earlier in this week. It is the worst variant, according to one expert.

The EU suspended all flight to South Africa in an effort to stop the spread of disease. This was after the initial case had been confirmed. Britain had already put six nations on the travel ‘red list’ – and was poised to add two more last night.

An adviser to the government suggested that people should be prepared for the possibility of Covid restrictions being reintroduced. Mail was told by a top government source that people should not panic.  

Chris Whitty is concerned that Britons won’t accept lockdown rules in order to combat Omicron supervariant during winter because of ‘behavioural fatigue’, which has been caused by two years’ worth of restrictions

Professor Chris Whitty said that he was concerned that Britons would not agree to lockdown rules in order to combat the Omicron super-variant during the winter, due to “behavioural fatigue” caused by two year’s worth of restrictions. 

England’s chief medical officer told a panel discussion hosted by the Local Government Association that he worried whether the Government could still ‘take people with us’.

This announcement comes just as Belgium becomes the first country in the European Union to report a case Omicron. The variant Omicron has also been found elsewhere, including South Africa and Israel.

It is though the strain, which has more than 50 mutations –  the most ever recorded in a variant and twice as many as Delta – could be more jab-resistant and transmissible that any version before it.  

‘My greatest concern at the moment… is that people…Professor Whitty agreed.

Professor Chris Whitty has said he fears Britons will not accept lockdown rules to fight off the Omicron super-variant over the winter because of 'behavioural fatigue' caused by two years of restrictions

Professor Chris Whitty stated that he is concerned about the possibility of Britons refusing to accept Omicron supervariant lockdown rules over winter due to behavioural fatigue, which has been caused by two years’ worth of restrictions.

He acknowledged that certain changes made by the public have had a’very damaging’ effect on society and economy.

But, despite all his fears, the chief physician officer was positive and stated that he felt the Government would be able maintain public support for the coronavirus prevention measures.

‘I think that the remarkable thing was the willingness of the UK’s population to simply accept that we have collectively to do certain things, and to also do so collectively.

“Obviously we would prefer not to have to do them at all, and only to the minimal ones necessary. But will it be possible to keep public support?”

“And I believe that my general view is that we will.

“Provided they are clear with the people what the logic means, provided that they feel like we’re completely honest with all of the data… but that’s always the worry.

Professor Whitty stated that the more the pandemic continues, the more difficult it will be to determine the public’s response.

“It is easier to feel confident about people’s responses right away than after they have put up with 2 years of their lives being interrupted… 

‘You can only do a public health intervention on the scale we’ve had to do if the majority of the population — and as it turned out, the great majority of the population — support it,’ Whitty said. 

“The overwhelming majority of people are serious about this issue and would like to see protections implemented.” 

The latest YouGov polling shows public support for Christmas restrictions, such as compulsory face masks and working from home, to kerb the spread of Covid-19

Recent polling by YouGov shows that public support is strong for restrictions on Christmas, including mandatory face masks, and the ability to work from home in order to stop Covid-19 spreading.

The latest YouGov polling revealed public support for restrictions on Christmas, including mandatory facemasks and work from home to curb the spread Covid-19.  

However, polls showed that there is little support for an indoor ban and the closing of pubs and restaurants.  

Professor Whitty stated that it was evident that the UK wasn’t ‘out in the woods,’ but added that ‘the most important things…that is going the right direction are likely to be the most important. 

Three reasons were given for optimism by him: that vaccine was ‘taking off’ school-related outbreaks, that boosters were making a material impact on reducing hospitalisations and that the European Delta Surge had yet not reached the UK.

This comes at a time when Britain’s Daily Covid Cases exceed 50,000 and death rates rise by 2 percent in one week. However, hospital admissions are down by 12 percentage.