Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a raft of new coronavirus restrictions this evening including the return of face masks.
He revealed the “temporary and precautionary” measures in a Number 10 press conference at 5pm today (November 27).
The conference was called after two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, thought to have a high reinfection rate, were detected in Chelmsford and Nottingham.
Both cases, each with a link to southern Africa, are believed to be connected.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance also took part in the update.
Here’s five key things we learnt.
Face coverings in shops and public transport
Face coverings have been brought back in in shops and on public transport.
You will have to wear them in all retail spaces and on transport, the PM said.
“We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron,” Boris said.
“But we have good reasons for believing they will give some level of protection.”
He urged the country: “It is more vital than ever that people get their jabs.”
New travel rules
The Prime Minister said that PCR tests would be introduced for all travellers arriving back in the UK.
The government today added four more countries to its red travel list as they tried to stop the spread of the new variant.
Boris said: “We now need to go further.”
He announced a “proportionate testing regime”.
“We’re not going to stop people travelling,” he said.
“But we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day of their arrival.”
Another measure will see travellers having to self isolate until they have a negative test result.
Isolation for contacts
Anyone who is found to be in close contact with someone who has a suspected case of the Omicron variant will have to self isolate for 10 days.
The Prime Minister said this was because we needed “to slow down spread of this in the UK”.
“In addition to the measures we’re taking to locate those in countries of concern…all contacts of those who test positive a with suspected case of the new variant will need to isolate for 10 days no matter what the status of tests.”
Boris also announced that the government was boosting the booster campaign.
He said the Health Secretary has asked for agencies to consider giving boosters to a wider group of people, and reduce the time between offering a booster.
Omicron spreads ‘rapidly’
Boris Johnson said the Omicron variant spreads “very rapidly” during the conference.
He said: “As always with a new variant there are just many things we cannot know at this early stage.”
He said scientists were already learning more and more about it “every hour”.
“It does appear it spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated,” the Prime Minister warned.
Vaccine effectiveness may be reduced
The Prime Minister warned that the Omicron variant was an “extensive mutation” and had “diverged quite extensively”.
Boris said: “It might in part reduce the effect of vaccines over time.”
He said that was why “proportionate measures” were needed now.
“We need to slow down the seeding of this variant in this country…so scientists can learn more…and help NHS prepare in what is already challenging winter,” the PM added.
Measures reviewed in three weeks
Boris told the country the measures would be reviewed in three weeks times.
He said “at that time we should have more information”.
“This is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding of this variant,” he added as he said we needed to “protect the gains we have worked for so hard”.