THOSE who have been in contact with people infected with the Omicron Covid variant will have to isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status under the new rules.
The Prime Minister announced the new restrictions this evening amid growing fears over the dreaded super-strain.
It comes after two cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Essex and Nottingham.
The PM said we now need to take "proportionate and targeted measures" in order to slow its spread in Britain.
Boris Johnson has said anyone arriving in the UK will be asked to take a PCR test for Covid-19 on the second day and they must self-isolate until they provide a negative result.
This is a mandatory change for anyone travelling to the UK, from any country abroad.
He told a Downing Street press conference on Saturday: "We're not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we're not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.
"Second, we need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.
"We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status.
"We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport."
Mr Johnson continued: "Third, and most importantly, we need to bolster our protections against this new variant.
"We don't yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron but we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection.
"If you're boosted, your response is likely to be stronger so it's more vital than ever that people get their jabs and we get those boosters into arms as fast as possible.
"From today we're going to boost the booster campaign, we're already planning to do six million jabs in England alone over the next three weeks and now we're looking to go further.
"The Health Secretary has asked the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to consider giving boosters to as wide a group as possible as well as reducing the gap between your second dose and your booster."
The PM promised that despite the growing concerns, "Christmas will be considerably better than last year."
RETURN OF FACE MASKS
Under the new rules, everyone must wear a face mask in shops, museums and public transport in England – unless they are medically exempt.
Boris Johnson said the exact rules on face coverings will be set out soon.
He told the Downing Street press conference: "On face coverings, what we're looking at is retail and transport, just going back to a position where you have to wear them in retail settings or on public transport.
"But the Health Secretary Saj (Javid) will be setting out more in the course of the next day or so."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said face coverings will be required on public transport and "in some other indoor settings".
He tweeted: "With the first cases of Omicron variant identified in the UK, we're taking extra measures to protect public health.
"All fully vaccinated arrivals to the UK are required to self-isolate when they arrive, take a PCR test on or before day 2, and continue to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
"For those who test positive, they must isolate for 10 days. There will be no change for unvaccinated travellers. People will also now be required to wear a face covering on public transport and in some other indoor settings.
"These are targeted measures to provide confidence and protection, and we will review these measures in three weeks to ensure they are working effectively."
Face coverings will become compulsory in shops and on public transport from "next week", a statement from 10 Downing Street said.
The statement, which was issued following the Prime Minister's press conference, said: "Face coverings will be made compulsory in shops and on public transport from next week.
"All hospitality settings will be exempt."
The restrictions, which do not apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, also mark a screeching U-Turn in England's roadmap out of lockdown.
Sajid Javid today confirmed that two people tested positive for the Omicron variant in Britain.
The cases are linked and both infected people are isolating with their families, the Health Secretary added.
The infected people travelled to the UK from southern Africa – where an explosion of new Omicron cases have been reported.
In a bid to combat the spread, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia have been added to the UK Government's red list meaning arrivals must isolate at home for 10 days from 4am tomorrow.
Targeted testing is also being rolled out in Nottingham and Chelmsford as a "precaution".
Making the announcement, Mr Javid told Sky News: "Late last night I was contacted by the UK Health Security Agency.
"I was informed that they have detected two cases of this new variant, Omicron, in the United Kingdom.
"One in Chelmsford, the other in Nottingham."
He added in a statement: "Thanks to our world class genomic sequencing we have been made aware of two UK cases of the Omicron variant.
"We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing.
"We will do all we can to protect the UK public against this emerging threat and that is why we are surging testing capacity to the impacted communities and introducing travel restrictions on a further four countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.
"We will not hesitate to take further action if required.
"This is a stark reminder that we are not yet out of this pandemic.
"Getting the vaccine has never been more important – please come forward for your first jab if you haven’t already and if eligible, book your booster as soon as possible."
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