Britain’s health secretary Sajid Javid announced on Tuesday that at least 13 cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in England, and that he was not sure whether all of them were linked to travel to southern Africa, raising concerns about likely community transmission. Nine more cases were confirmed in Scotland, bringing the total known cases in Britain to 22.
Javid said Britain is tightening travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new variant, as well as stepping up its vaccination program and mask mandates.
“Is there likely to be community transmission? I think we have to be realistic there is likely to be, as we are seeing in other European countries. We would expect cases to rise as we now actively look for cases,” Javid told a news conference.
“Our experience of fighting this virus has shown us that it’s best to act decisively and swiftly when we see a potential threat,” Javid said in Parliament on Monday. “If it emerges that this variant is no more dangerous than the Delta variant, then we won’t keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary.”
Scotland also announced on Tuesday that nine cases of the new variant had been confirmed there, and that they were all linked to a single private event, bringing the total known cases in Britain to 22. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who spoke at the same press conference as Javid on Tuesday called on Britons to get booster shots.
“I know the frustration that we all feel with the Omicron variant, the sense of exhaustion that we could be going through this all again,” he said. “But that is the wrong thing to feel.”
He said Britain was in a much better position than this time last year.