November 29, 2021 11.55 pm This story is over 24 months old

Mask compulsory in shops and public transport from Tuesday

Rise in COVID Omicron variant prompts change

Face coverings are once again be made compulsory in shops and on public transport from Tuesday, November 30 — but pubs and restaurants are exempt for now.

The Prime Minister announced the new, temporary measures to respond to emergence of UK cases of the Omicron COVID variant, with the first two cases in Nottingham and Chelmsford.

The government said the measures are precautionary, and will be reviewed in three weeks. MPs are due to vote on confirming the measures after they come into force.

The other significant change affects international travellers, with everyone entering the UK (other than those coming from the Common Travel Area that covers the Channel Islands and Ireland) will have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Travel restrictions have already been implemented to slow the spread of the variant. From Sunday, November 28, South Africa, Botswana, Lesostho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola were added to the UK’s travel red list.

About COVID-19 Omicron

The Omicron variant contains a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.

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

A rapid rise in infections in South Africa has been attributed to the spread of this new variant of COVID-19.

Health secretary: “plans as normal for Christmas”

Sajid Javid told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” but the measures announced this week in reaction to the Omicron variant will “buy us time” to enable scientists to assess it.

“People should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” he said.

But Mr Javid said the country was “nowhere near” reintroducing measures such as working from home or social distancing, arguing that they carry a “heavy price” economically, socially and in terms of mental health.

He added that he was expecting the government’s vaccines advisers to advise him “imminently” on broadening the booster programme to younger age groups.