Covid news live: WHO races to assess severity of Omicron variant as Japan shuts borders

The WHO says it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other Covid variants, including Delta, though its discovery has coincided with an uptick in cases in South Africa.

The global health agency said it is working with researchers across the world to establish whether the new “variant of concern” causes “more severe disease compared to infections with other variants”.

Meanwhile, secondary school students across England have been told they must once again wear face coverings in communal areas, as the government attempts to contain the spread of the variant.

Under the new guidance – which comes into force on Monday – all staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 or above are “strongly advised” to wear a face covering, unless they are exempt. The rule covers all education establishments including universities, as well as childcare settings such as early years care.

It comes after a third Omicron case was confirmed in the UK, involving a traveller who visited Westminster but has since left the country.

It came after Sajid Javid admitted on Sunday that air passengers from South Africa were not tested on arrival into the UK on Friday – despite fears they could be carrying the new variant.

Follow our live coverage below

Read More

Omicron: Everything we know about the new Covid variant

Omicron may already be in US – what are the ‘unusual’ symptoms to look out for?

Omicron: Third case of Covid variant detected in UK

Japan bans entry of foreign visitors as omicron spreads

Key Points

  • Secondary school children told to wear masks in communal areas

  • Third UK case of omicron variant confirmed

  • Netherlands detects 13 cases of omicron from two flights

  • Passengers from South Africa were not tested and ‘got home in normal way’, Sajid Javid admits

  • Plan for Christmas ‘as normal’ despite omicron, says health secretary

Japan suspends entry of foreign visitors

04:59 , Namita Singh

Japan will bar the entry of foreign visitors from 30 November, announced prime minister Fumio Kishida on Monday. The country’s citizens returning from a list of specified nations will be allowed to return, but must quarantine themselves in designated facilities.

Stuti Mishra reports:

Japan closes borders to all foreign visitors in response to Omicron Covid variant

Indian state sees spike in vaccine demand

04:42 , Namita Singh

Amid concerns around the world about the spread of Omicron, at least one state in India has confirmed a spike in interest in vaccinations and booster jabs.

Maharashtra, a western state which includes India’s financial capital Mumbai, said it administered 839,005 vaccines on Saturday, the highest number in a single day throughout November.

More than 9.2 million residents of the state are yet to receive a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

A worker gets inoculated against Covid-19 at a temporary vaccination centre in Mumbai on 19 October 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
A worker gets inoculated against Covid-19 at a temporary vaccination centre in Mumbai on 19 October 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

India ramps up airport screening

03:54 , Namita Singh

The Indian government on Sunday revised its guidelines for screening international travellers arriving from Europe, including the UK and 11 other “at risk” countries.

The country has also mandated testing on arrival, home quarantine for seven days on a negative result and another Covid-19 test on the eight day. Individual states have been directed to randomly test five per cent of the passengers arriving in flights from “at risk” countries.

File: An airport employee wearing a face shield checks the body temperature of a passenger at Bagdogra airport, on the outskirts of Siliguri on May 28, 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)
File: An airport employee wearing a face shield checks the body temperature of a passenger at Bagdogra airport, on the outskirts of Siliguri on May 28, 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

Too early to conclude Omincron variant causes more severe infections of Covid-19: WHO

03:48 , Namita Singh

It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta, said WHO.

The global health agency said that though the number of people testing positive for the variant have risen in South Africa, it added that “epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors”.

WHO also said that “it is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.”

It said that the increase in hospitalisation may be due to “increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.” The WHO added that there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.

Watch: Oxford Street shoppers agree with omicron restrictions

Sunday 28 November 2021 22:50 , Sam Hancock

Face masks must be worn again in secondary schools – ministers

Sunday 28 November 2021 22:30 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (6.21pm), here’s Tom Batchelor with more on the new Covid rules for England’s secondary schools.

Face masks should be worn in communal areas in England’s schools and colleges, as part of efforts to slow the spread of the omicron Covid variant, the government has said.

Pupils in year 7 and above, plus staff and visitors, are being “strongly advised” to wear a face covering under the “temporary and precautionary” measure, which will take effect from Monday.

Masks will not be required in classrooms and exemptions will remain in place for those who have a medical reason not to wear one.

Face masks must be worn in schools to tackle omicron, government says

Swiss approve Covid restrictions as cases rise

Sunday 28 November 2021 22:17 , Sam Hancock

A vote in Switzerland on Sunday gave the green light to new legislation, which bars unvaccinated people from attending public events and gatherings. People who have recovered from Covid or test negative will can attend such events, alongside those who are vaccinated.

The final count showed 62 per cent of voters supported the measure, which is already in force. The vote on the country’s “Covid-19 law,” which also has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic, came as Switzerland — like many other nations in Europe — faces a steep rise in Covid cases.

Switzerland’s government, unlike others, hasn’t responded with new restrictions. Analysts said it didn’t want to stir up more opposition to its anti-Covid-19 policies before they faced Sunday’s test at the ballot box.

Swiss health minister Alain Berset (Wikimedia Commons)
Swiss health minister Alain Berset (Wikimedia Commons)

Health minister Alain Berset said, with the result now in, authorities “still have the necessary instruments to manage the crisis, and we can, if necessary, adjust the instruments to developments”.

“A decision has been made and we must come together now to get through this winter as well as possible,” Mr Berset said. “This is an appeal for unity but also for respect for decisions that have been taken.”

On Tuesday, Swiss health authorities warned of a rising “fifth wave” on infections in the rich Alpine country, where vaccination rates are roughly in line with those in hard-hit neighbours Austria and Germany at about two-thirds of the population.

Fauci says ‘fifth wave’ of Covid possible if Americans shun vaccines

Sunday 28 November 2021 21:45 , Sam Hancock

The United States could be in for yet another wave of Covid-19 infections unless Americans continue to receive vaccines and booster shots, White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has said.

Speaking to CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Dr Fauci warned that the next few weeks will be crucial for determining whether the US can stem the tide of new cases and the deaths that could result from a fifth wave.

“We certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave,” he said amid the new omicron variant. “And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that it will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months.”

Andrew Feinberg reports from Washington, DC:

Omicron: Fauci says ‘fifth wave’ of Covid possible if Americans shun vaccines

NI activates plan to determine if omicron in country

Sunday 28 November 2021 21:25 , Sam Hancock

Over to Northern Ireland now, where plans are underway to identify any spread of the omicron variant in the country.

Robin Swann, NI’s health minister, also urged the public to follow basic steps to help prevent the spread of all variants of Covid-19, and underlined the continuing importance of vaccination.

He will update the Assembly on Monday about the measures being deployed in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The variant has been identified in England and a host of other countries across Europe, however no cases have yet been notified in Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic.

Mr Swann said measures against omicron include the addition of a number of countries to Northern Ireland’s red list for international travel.

“If the new variant is confirmed here, all appropriate health protection actions will be carried out and the public will be informed as appropriate,” he told the media on Sunday.

NI health minister Robin Swann (PA)
NI health minister Robin Swann (PA)

Watch: Passengers from SA not tested, Javid admits

Sunday 28 November 2021 21:00 , Sam Hancock

New Covid school measures ‘helpful,’ says union

Sunday 28 November 2021 20:35 , Sam Hancock

More reaction now to the news that secondary school students will have to wear face masks in communal spaces from Monday.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT said the reintroduction of the requirement for face coverings to be worn ... is helpful, however he pushed the government to “go further”.

He added:

“If schools are to maintain safety during the remainder of this term, the government will need to accept that its messaging needs to be stronger and that the rules governing isolation of close contacts in particular need to be clear and robust.

“In the case of pupils who are suspected to have Covid-19 symptoms, the government needs to consider seriously bolstering its advice to require close contacts to self-isolate ... It is right that the government should focus on ensuring that pupils are tested regularly. However, given that significant numbers of pupils do not undertake the recommended twice-weekly LFD tests, the government must identify a more effective strategy for Covid testing to ensure that all schools can continue to remain open safely.

“In addition to the publication of new guidance, the Government must also ensure that schools and colleges have the additional resources they need to implement essential Covid-safety measures both in the run up to the Christmas break and on their return in the new year.”

Meanwhile, Unison’s assistant general secretary Jon Richards said “swift action” is needed to help contain the spread in schools and “avoid further disrupted learning”.

“Face coverings mustn’t be limited to communal areas,” he said. “If they’re to have the right effect they need to be in all areas of secondary schools, including classrooms, as is the case in Scotland.”

Omicron: How return of PCR tests and self-isolation will work

Sunday 28 November 2021 20:09 , Sam Hancock

PCR tests and self-isolation are back for travellers arriving in the UK. Weeks after international travel rules were eased to allow cheaper and faster lateral flow (antigen) tests, the government is tightening restrictions once again in response to the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

At the same time, the previously dormant red list has been expanded and now applies to arrivals from 10 southern African nations.

So, what does it all mean? And how will it all work? Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has all the answers.

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for international travel will work

Watch: England ‘nowhere near’ introducing tougher restrictions, Javid says

Sunday 28 November 2021 19:44 , Sam Hancock

Fox hosts suggest new Covid variant ‘made up by Democrats’

Sunday 28 November 2021 19:28 , Sam Hancock

US President Joe Biden was seemingly blamed by Fox & Friends hosts for the discovery of a new Covid variant after the US introduced travel bans on several southern African countries.

As the hosts of Fox and Friends pointed out on Saturday, lockdown measures – despite not being introduced by the federal government – were a reason behind the current supply chain crisis and a rising cost of living that was starting to be felt by US consumers.

Pete Buttigieg, the US transportation secretary, also said in recent days that the US “can’t fix the supply chain problem until the pandemic is over, until Covid is over,” as Rachel Campos-Duffy told Fox & Friends viewers and her co-presenters Pete Hegseth and Will Cain.

“And now we see these new variants,” she added. “So that’s the answer: more lockdowns, more lockdowns, more fear and therefore he doesn’t have to do his job of fixing the supply chain because we’ll keep this whole thing going”.

The host appeared to suggest that Mr Biden had created a new Covid variant to prolong the supply chain crisis, and to introduce “more lockdowns, [and] more fear” that allowed the Democrat not to do his job. This is false, reports Gino Spocchia.

Fox and Friends hosts suggest Biden behind new Covid variant

School leaders ‘support’ new Covid measures – and call for more ‘backing’

Sunday 28 November 2021 18:45 , Sam Hancock

Let’s get some expert commentary on the new school Covid measures now.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We support these measures as a sensible response to the risks posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“This worrying situation, however, emphasises the need for better support from the government for the education sector.

“The government has already asked secondary schools to provide on-site Covid-19 testing for pupils at the beginning of next term. This is a huge additional responsibility, and the government should be giving schools much more support. The organisation and staffing of testing stations should be the remit of public health teams. The government should also give more advance notice of on-site testing if this is required again in future.

“Ministers must also commit to providing all schools and colleges with government-funded air cleaning units as needed, instead of the current approach of advising most settings that they will need to purchase this equipment in an ‘online marketplace’.

“It appears that the omicron variant may result in more staff and pupil absence thereby worsening an already very grave situation.

“It is therefore imperative that the government provides workforce funding to schools and colleges to help with the cost of supply cover for absent staff. Schools and colleges are in a position of having to provide in-class teaching for some groups of students, and remote education for other groups of students, at the same time as experiencing Covid-related staff absence. They simply cannot sustain the ongoing costs of the supply cover that is required.

“The government must also promote a public campaign to encourage twice-weekly home Covid testing among eligible pupils in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

“We have made these calls on many occasions. It is clear that this crisis is not going away, and we once again call upon the government to give the sector the backing that it needs.”

Watch: PM ‘confident’ this Christmas will be ‘better than last’

Sunday 28 November 2021 18:15 , Sam Hancock

Secondary school children told to wear masks in communal areas

Sunday 28 November 2021 17:57 , Sam Hancock

The Department for Education (DfE) has told children in Year 7 and above that they should wear face coverings in school communal areas – essentially all secondary school pupils.

It comes as part of measures to slow the spread of the omicron Covid variant.

An email update from the department to education and childcare providers said: “Face coverings should be worn in communal areas in all settings by staff, visitors and pupils or students in Year 7 and above, unless they are exempt.

“Pupils or students (in Year 7 or above) should continue to wear face coverings on public and dedicated school transport, unless they are exempt.”

In a statement, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “We are working with education and childcare settings to enhance safety measures where needed, including introducing isolation for 10 days for close contacts of suspected omicron cases.”

Christmas 2022 at risk from Covid due to ‘jab hoarding,’ Brown warns

Sunday 28 November 2021 17:37 , Sam Hancock

Next year’s Christmas is at risk from Covid restrictions unless the UK and other rich nations stop hoarding vaccines desperately needed in Africa, Gordon Brown is warning.

The former PM has hit out at Boris Johnson for a false claim that low take-up of jabs – rather than a shortage – is to blame for a lack of protection in countries with the new Omicron variant, writes our deputy political editor Rob Merrick.

In an article for The Independent, Mr Brown calls on Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the chief medical and scientific officers, to “sit Johnson down” and make him understand “basic medical facts”.

Christmas 2022 at risk from Covid unless UK stops hoarding jabs, Gordon Brown warns

Essex church-goers and KFC workers told to get PCRs amid omicron concerns

Sunday 28 November 2021 17:17 , Sam Hancock

Members of a church congregation plus staff, customers and delivery workers at a KFC outlet are being told to get a PCR test for the omicron variant after it was detected in Brentwood.

Essex County Council said the targeted testing affects anyone who visited the KFC in Brentwood High Street on 19 November, between 1pm and 5pm.

The authority said it also affects people who attended Trinity Church in Pilgrims Hatch on 21 November.

Wait time for Covid booster 'likely to be reduced in Scotland’

Sunday 28 November 2021 17:02 , Sam Hancock

Reducing the gap between Covid vaccinations and the booster jag is likely to happen in Scotland, a public health expert has said.

According to the current NHS Scotland advice, the coronavirus booster should be given at least six months (24 weeks) after the date of the second vaccine dose.

Linda Bauld, a professor in public health at the University of Edinburgh, said speeding up the waiting time for the booster to a five-month wait would be “proportionate” in the wake of new variant omicron being discovered in the UK.

Speaking on BBC’s The Sunday Show, Ms Bauld said: “If you look at the data from the Pfizer trial, and other countries, reducing it from six to five months seems to be proportionate.

“I think we will hear that very soon.”

She added: “Israel and other countries are just boosting all adults, it’s not age stratified.

“You start with the most vulnerable but then you boost all adults who are eligible. That may be what happens here and we will at least go down to the 30s, probably below.”

Ms Bauld also said vaccinating children aged five to 12 would be a “reasonable next step”.

Additional reporting by PA

Watch: Everything we know so far about new Covid strain

Sunday 28 November 2021 16:45 , Sam Hancock

Third case of Covid variant detected in UK

Sunday 28 November 2021 16:12 , Chiara Giordano

A third case of the Omicron Covid variant has been confirmed in Britain, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

Tom Batchelor has more on this story here:

Third case of Covid variant omicron detected in UK

Third UK case of omicron variant confirmed

Sunday 28 November 2021 16:04 , Chiara Giordano

A third case of the omicron Covid-19 variant has been confirmed in the UK, in a person who visited London but has since left the country, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

Cardiff Rugby unable to leave South Africa after two positive Covid cases

Sunday 28 November 2021 15:46 , Chiara Giordano

Cardiff Rugby has said the team is unable to leave South Africa after two positive cases of Covid-19, one of which is "suspected to be the new variant omicron".

In a statement, the club said: "The travelling party had hoped to depart Cape Town this afternoon after a charter plane was secured, however PCR tests undertaken last night have returned two positive results.

"As a consequence of one of these results suspected of being omicron, the entire travelling party have returned to their hotel to isolate.

"Cardiff Rugby continue to work with the South African Rugby Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and public health authorities both at home and abroad to decide the next course of action.

"The club are also continuing to work with all relevant authorities to secure the travelling party's return to Wales when safe and appropriate.

"Everybody concerned in this highly challenging situation would like to thank their families, friends, colleagues and the wider rugby family for their many messages of concern and well wishes."

Morocco suspends all incoming air travel

Sunday 28 November 2021 15:31 , Chiara Giordano

Morocco is suspending all incoming air travel from around the world, starting on Monday, for two weeks because of the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The country’s Foreign Ministry tweeted that the decision was taken to "preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens". It noted the spread of Omicron in Africa and Europe.

Morocco kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic, fearing that its health system would not be able to manage the surges of patients seen in Europe.

Pre-travel testing should be reinstated ‘immediately’, says Labour MP

Sunday 28 November 2021 15:04 , Chiara Giordano

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the government should reinstate pre-travel tests "immediately" to help identify and contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

She said: "Only reintroducing PCR tests after two days home isn't sufficient as a precautionary approach as it leaves far too many gaps in the system.

"People can still travel on busy planes, wait in busy departure or arrival halls, then travel home on buses, trains or the tube, all without being tested at all.

"We know from previous waves and variants that the virus spreads via other countries and via indirect flights, not just directly from the countries most affected - which is why early testing from all countries is vital.

"Once again, the government seems to be leaving major gaps in the travel testing regime. They have done this too many times before and they mustn't make the same mistakes again. They need to learn from what happened with previous waves and get comprehensive testing in place fast.”

Netherlands detects 13 cases of omicron from two flights

Sunday 28 November 2021 14:23 , Lamiat Sabin

Thirteen cases of the new Covid variant omicron have been detected in the Netherlands among passengers on two flights from South Africa.

Authorities at Schipol airport in Amsterdam had tested more than 600 passengers from the two flights that had arrived on Friday.

Some 61 cases of Covid in total were found – 13 (more than a fifth) of them the omicron variant, which is feared to be extremely contagious compared to previous variants.

Read the details here

Netherlands detects 13 cases of new Omicron variant from two South Africa flights

Expert whose modelling led to first lockdown says all options should be kept on the table

Sunday 28 November 2021 14:00 , Chiara Giordano

The expert whose modelling helped instigate the first lockdown welcomed the new measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus but said all options should be kept on the table in case it spreads very rapidly.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he expects to see "substantially larger numbers" of the Omicron variant in the coming days in the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme: "We together with the Netherlands ... we're the two European countries with the largest number of passenger flights to and from South Africa, so it's likely we'll detect quite a lot more cases in the coming days."

He said he backs the new measures announced by the government as "proportionate" to slow the spread of the new variant during the "waiting game" over the next two weeks as scientists analyse its properties.

Watch: Boris Johnson says he is ‘confident’ this Christmas will be ‘considerably’ better than the last

Sunday 28 November 2021 13:45 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson has said he is “confident” this Christmas will be ‘considerably’ better than the last.

Watch the prime minister’s full remarks here:

Boris Johnson 'confident' this Christmas will be 'considerably better than last'

Wealthier countries ‘definitely’ need to ensure more of world is vaccinated, says South Africa health minister

Sunday 28 November 2021 13:30 , Chiara Giordano

South Africa's health minister Joe Phaahla has said wealthier countries "definitely" need to ensure more of the world is vaccinated.

Speaking to LBC, Dr Phaahla said: "Closing borders and stopping travelling between countries, it's not an effective way of managing this. We know at this stage, we've learned over these last 20 months how to live with the virus.

"We've learned how to carry on with some reasonable, not old normality, but new normality of wearing masks, of testing."

Asked if wealthier countries like the UK need to give more vaccine doses to countries in Africa, he said "definitely".

Dr Phaahla said "denying access to those who don't have the financial capacity" creates "a false sense of safety".

Common travel area exemption from new Covid restrictions welcomed

Sunday 28 November 2021 13:15 , Chiara Giordano

The exemption of the common travel area from new Covid-19 restrictions against the Omicron variant has been welcomed.

New tougher measures including PCR testing will be introduced for arrivals to the UK from Tuesday morning.

All contacts with a suspected case of Omicron will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status, amid concerns existing jabs will be less effective against the strain that is believed to spread rapidly.

However, this will not apply to the common travel area (CTA), which covers Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands.

The Irish Department of Health has announced its own measures to mitigate against Omicron, including mandatory home quarantine regardless of vaccine status.

Adults to be offered booster jab ‘earlier than previously envisaged'

Sunday 28 November 2021 13:00 , Chiara Giordano

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI ), was asked whether under-40s "should expect" to get the booster earlier than previously thought because of the Omicron variant.

When asked if those aged 18-39 should brace for an extension to the booster programme on Radio 4's Broadcasting House, he said: "I think there's a very good, strong argument for raising the antibody level in the whole of the community.

"So, accelerating the booster programme, both by extending the age range and by reducing the interval between the second dose and the booster dose, will be an acceptable strategy."

When pushed on whether people aged 18 and over would be invited to get the booster sooner, he added: "Those adults 18 plus will have an offer of a booster earlier than we had previously envisaged."

Israel becomes first country to shut borders completely over fears of Omicron variant

Sunday 28 November 2021 12:45 , Chiara Giordano

Israel has become the first country in the world to shut its borders completely amid fears over the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Prime minister Naftali Bennett said the ban on foreigners entering the country would last 14 days.

Maroosha Muzaffar has more on this story:

Israel becomes first country to shut borders over fears of new Omicron variant

Thirteen Omicron cases found in Netherlands

Sunday 28 November 2021 12:26 , Chiara Giordano

Thirteen cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities have reported.

It comes after 61 people who flew into the country from South Africa on Friday tested positive for coronavirus.

Expert disagrees with claim Omicron variant is milder form of coronavirus

Sunday 28 November 2021 12:10 , Chiara Giordano

Professor Sir Mark Walport, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has disagreed with claims that the Omicron variant is a milder form of coronavirus.

Speaking to LBC on Sunday, he said: "The number of people is still quite small, and it's a younger population, so there's no reason to think that there's going to be a milder disease."

Not bus drivers’ role to enforce mask wearing, says Unite

Sunday 28 November 2021 11:55 , Chiara Giordano

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: "It is not sufficient to announce that face masks will once again become compulsory, this policy has got to be fully enforced in order to protect public health.

"The government's previous inconsistent messaging on face mask wearing is almost certainly going to result in a high degree of non-compliance.

"Unite's advice to bus drivers is clear: it is not their role to enforce mask wearing, their responsibility is to safely drive and operate the bus. The job of enforcing mask wearing is that of the bus operator and the police.

"Unite has consistently warned that the requirement to wear face masks should never have been removed while rates of Covid-19 remained high. It is only the arrival of the new variant which has forced the government to act."

Explained: How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for international travel will work

Sunday 28 November 2021 11:45 , Chiara Giordano

From 4am on Tuesday, all international arrivals into the UK will have to take a PCR test either upon entry or within one of the two following days.

The traveller must also self-isolate on arrival until a negative result is received.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder explains the new rules in full here:

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for international travel will work

Further travel restrictions may be necessary, Nicola Sturgeon warns

Sunday 28 November 2021 11:26 , Chiara Giordano

More restrictions on travel may be needed in Scotland to combat the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The first minister spoke out as new travel restrictions were imposed by the UK government after two cases of the new Covid-19 strain were confirmed in England.

Scotland will also impose the travel restrictions, which will see all passengers arriving in the UK required to take a PCR test and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result.

That will apply to everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.

While no cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in Scotland as yet, Ms Sturgeon warned that further travel restrictions may be necessary.

Majority of Omicron cases seen by doctors in South Africa have been ‘mild’, says health minister

Sunday 28 November 2021 11:24 , Chiara Giordano

South Africa health minister Joe Phaahla said he had heard anecdotally that the majority of cases of Omicron seen by doctors in his country had been "mild".

Asked on LBC what he knew about how unwell people were who had contracted it, Dr Phaahla said: "It is still too early at this stage.

"Some of what I've read from some of our clinicians has been that thus far they have not witnessed severe illness. Part of it may be because the majority of those who are positive are young people."

He also said a greater proportion of older people were vaccinated, adding: "Also, it may be because it's younger people out of whom only 26 per cent of people are vaccinated."

Authorities expected to announce how many Omicron cases found in Netherlands

Sunday 28 November 2021 10:40 , Chiara Giordano

Dutch health authorities are expected to announce how many cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands later today, after 61 people who flew from South Africa tested positive for coronavirus.

The Netherlands' Institute for Health (RIVM) said it believed the new variant was present in at least some of the positive cases found among some 600 passengers who were tested on arrival from two flights from South Africa on Friday.

A RIVM spokesperson said on Saturday it was "almost certain" it had identified cases of the new variant, but further testing was needed, and the institute will not say how many until it is sure.

‘Matter of hours’ before Omicron variant detected in France, says health minister

Sunday 28 November 2021 10:30 , Chiara Giordano

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is probably already circulating in France, the country’s health minister has said, adding that the government is tightening restrictions to contain its spread.

"There is no identification yet, but it's a matter of hours," Olivier Veran told reporters at a vaccination centre in Paris.

Air passengers from South Africa were not tested on arrival into UK and travelled home ‘in normal way’, Sajid Javid admits

Sunday 28 November 2021 10:19 , Chiara Giordano

Health secretary Sajid Javid has admitted air passengers from South Africa were not tested on arrival into the UK on Friday and travelled home “in the normal way” despite fears they could be carrying the Omicron variant.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the full story:

Passengers from South Africa were not tested on arrival, Sajid Javid admits

Union raises concerns about enforcement of face masks on public transport

Sunday 28 November 2021 10:10 , Chiara Giordano

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has raised concerns about enforcement of face masks, which will once again be compulsory on public transport and in shops from Tuesday.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: "We support the wearing of masks but there are major issues about enforcement and it is our members left in the front line with angry passengers who refuse to comply.

"The government must make the resources available to police this reintroduction of masks.

"We also need to end this disjointed approach and get some consistency that avoids the chaos and confusion that is a hallmark of this administration."

Testing and isolation rules to change from 4am Tuesday

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:42 , Chiara Giordano

According to a message on the passenger locator form section of the government's website, testing and isolation requirements will change for people travelling into the UK from 4am on Tuesday.

The message says: "After 04.00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted and all travellers arriving into UK will be required to book and take Covid-19 PCR tests."

Moderna could have booster jab ready to combat Omicron by early 2022

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:33 , Chiara Giordano

Dr Paul Burton, chief medical officer of Moderna, said his team could have a booster jab ready to rollout by early next year.

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show the company has been working on a booster jab to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant since Thursday and expects to know about the effectiveness of its current vaccine against the new strain within a couple of weeks.

“If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think it’s going to be early 2022 before that’s available in large quantities,” he said.

“This is a dangerous-looking virus but I think we have many tools to be able to fight it so I’m optimistic.”

Exclusive: ‘Shameful’ for UK not to share more jabs and vaccine designs, NGOs and unions warn

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:21 , Chiara Giordano

Wealthy western governments will “prolong” the Covid pandemic if they fail to help other nations boost vaccination rates, an international alliance of NGOs, charities and trade unions has warned.

The latest Covid-19 variant, omicron, which some scientists fear could be more troublesome than the dominant and highly-contagious delta variant, has given fresh focus to the gulf between nations’ vaccination levels.

Our economics editor Anna Isaac and science correspondent Samuel Lovett have more this exclusive report:

‘Shameful’ for UK not to share more jabs and vaccine designs, NGOs and unions warn

Plan for Christmas ‘as normal’ despite Omicron, says Sajid Javid

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:08 , Chiara Giordano

Health secretary Sajid Javid has said people should plan for Christmas as "normal".

He told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday: "I think it's fair to say that the nature of this pandemic is it would be irresponsible to make guarantees.

"As for Christmas, I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it's going to be a great Christmas."

England ‘nowhere near’ introducing tougher Covid restrictions, Sajid Javid says

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:03 , Chiara Giordano

England is “nowhere near” introducing tougher Covid restrictions, Sajid Javid says, despite the return of mask-wearing and PCR tests for travellers.

The health secretary rejected stricter curbs – such as social distancing, or a working from home rule – arguing they “carry a very heavy price” and are not necessary now, despite the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more on this:

England ‘nowhere near’ introducing tougher Covid restrictions, says Sajid Javid

Health secretary hopes extra measures will be removed ‘within weeks'

Sunday 28 November 2021 09:00 , Chiara Giordano

The health secretary has said he hopes extra measures will be "temporary", adding he thinks people will "take this more seriously".

Speaking to Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Sajid Javid said: "Doing it in this proportionate way where it's for public transport, it's for retail outlets, I think is the right level of response on masks.

"It will be via government regulation and that means, I think, that people will take it seriously."

Pressed on whether people will follow the rules on masks, Mr Javid said following the news of a new variant: "I do think people will take this more seriously."

Mr Javid added: "It's important, I think, to act in a proportionate way and also in a temporary way.

"I hope this is something that we can remove within weeks. But I do think in terms of making progress, we want life to go back towards normal, but at this point in time, given what we know about this variant, and the expert advice that has been received, I think it is right to take some proportionate and balanced action."

New mask rules to come into force on Tuesday

Sunday 28 November 2021 08:56 , Chiara Giordano

Health secretary Sajid Javid told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday new rules on wearing masks in shops and on public transport should come into force on Tuesday.

Health secretary expects to get advice on broadening booster programme ‘imminently'

Sunday 28 November 2021 08:53 , Chiara Giordano

The health secretary has said he is expecting to get advice on broadening the booster programme from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation "imminently".

Speaking to Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Sajid Javid said vaccines are now more important "than it was before".

He said: "We know that vaccines work. Yes, this new variant may make it less effective or not. But the vaccines work, they are our first form of defence and that is why I have also asked our expert advisers on vaccines called JCVI to give me very quick advice on broadening boosting our booster programme.

"I expect to get that advice imminently. This is all about acting swiftly in a proportionate and balanced way to protect the progress that we have made."

UK’s high level of immunity should provide ‘cushion’ against Omicron variant, says expert

Sunday 28 November 2021 08:50 , Chiara Giordano

The UK's high level of immunity, whether through jabs or previous Covid-19 infection, will hopefully provide a "cushion" of protection when it comes to the new Omicron variant, a vaccines expert has said.

Professor Gordon Dougan, from the institute for therapeutic immunology and infectious disease at the University of Cambridge, said he doubts whether the new strain will be able to get around immunity completely.

He told Times Radio: "We're very lucky in one sense, in that we've already built up either natural immunity in those who've been infected and we've also got vaccine-induced immunity.

"I doubt the variant will escape completely protection - we'll have to wait and see - but we've got that sort of cushion, if you like, to give us a little bit more confidence that we can deal with the situation."

Measures to slow spread of Omicron variant are ‘watered down version of Plan B’

Sunday 28 November 2021 08:41 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson's measures to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant are "a watered-down version of Plan B", Professor Lawrence Young has said.

The professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick said it is a "shame" the measures do not go as far as to advise people to work from home and use vaccine passports.

He told Times Radio: "I think what we're looking at at the moment is what I call 'Plan B lite'. It's a shame that we're just not going a little bit further.

"That's not about lockdowns, but it's about encouraging people to work from home where possible and thinking about how we, you know, dare I say, use some form of vaccine passport just to make sure that we're all safe.

"So, what we heard yesterday, and what's likely to happen over the next few weeks, is a watered-down version of Plan B and the hope is that that will be sufficient so we don't end up in a really difficult situation at Christmas."

Sunday 28 November 2021 08:21 , Chiara Giordano

Good morning, we’re back with more live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic today.

Sajid Javid is due to outline new coronavirus measures in more detail after the UK detected its first two cases of the new Omicron variant.

The health secretary is expected to expand on the prime minister’s announcement when he appears on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show later this morning.

Watch: Omicron variant ‘unlikely’ to trigger new wave in UK, prof says

Sunday 28 November 2021 01:10 , Sam Hancock

Spain bans non-vaccinated Britons as Israel shuts borders to all visitors

Sunday 28 November 2021 00:50 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (11pm), here’s our deputy news editor Alastair Jamieson with more on the countries tightening their borders.

Only fully-vaccinated British tourists will be admitted to Spain from Wednesday as countries around the world tighten border restrictions amid concern at the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Until now, Britons could enter Spain by showing a negative PCR test result taken up to 72 hours before arriving, but from 1 December they will also need proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.

The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say such restrictions may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.

It came as Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine on travellers arriving from Britain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi.

Spain bans non-vaccinated Britons as Israel shuts borders to all visitors

Brazil imposes further travel restrictions

Sunday 28 November 2021 00:30 , Sam Hancock

Over to Brazil now, where health regulator Anvisa has recommended that already-imposed travel restrictions related to the Omicron variant should be widened to include Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

The recommendation comes a day after Brazil shut its borders to travellers arriving from South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Anvisa’s recommendation will need to be implemented by the government, as the regulator does not have the authority to enforce such travel restrictions.

Everything we know about the new Omicron variant

Sunday 28 November 2021 00:10 , Sam Hancock

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials have named the new B.1.1529 coronavirus variant “Omicron”, designating it as a variant of concern just weeks after it was first detected.

The announcement came on Friday amid growing concerns that it is highly transmissible and could reduce the efficacy of vaccines. However, given that Omicron only emerged recently, scientists believe it could take a few months before we have a more complete understanding of the scale of the threat it poses.

What is certain is that this variant, which descends from the B.1.1 lineage, is “unprecedented” and “very unusual” in the number of its mutations.

But, what else do we know? Eleanor Sly and Emily Atkinson investigate.

Everything we know about the new ‘Omicron’ variant

Watch: Johnson announces PCR tests for all UK arrivals

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:51 , Sam Hancock

ICYMI: Ashworth outlines steps needed to ‘get ahead of Omicron’

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:44 , Sam Hancock

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth earlier outlined what he believes are the necessary steps to tackle the new Omicron Covid variant.

His advice included measures such a decent sick pay to encourage those with symptoms to stay at home, and to ensure enclosed spaces such as schools have the necessary ventilation.

The Labour MP is currently in self-isolation, having tested positive for Covid himself on Friday.

Eight learnings from Omicron press conference earlier

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:31 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson was joined by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, for a Downing Street press conference on Saturday.

The trio discusses new measures following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the UK.

Here’s the key takeaways from that briefing:

  1. Face masks will be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England from next week.

  2. Anyone entering the UK from any destination abroad will have to take a PCR test two days after arrival and self-isolate until they have a negative result.

  3. Anyone who has been in close contact with a case of Omicron will have to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

  4. The new measures will be reviewed within three weeks.

  5. The two cases discovered in the UK were part of the same outbreak and are in Essex and Nottingham.

  6. Omicron can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.

  7. The variant has an “extensive” mutation which means in may “at least in part” reduce the protection of the vaccine over time, the PM said.

  8. Omicron “really changes the risk/benefit calculations” for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation regarding recommending vaccines to younger children, meaning children under 12 could soon be eligible.

Additional reporting by PA

ICYMI: Expert says Omicron ‘unlikely’ to trigger new Covid wave in UK

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:14 , Sam Hancock

A vaccine expert has said it is “extremely unlikely” that the new Omicron variant will trigger a major new wave of the Covid pandemic in the UK, despite the sudden return of travel restrictions.

Professor Andrew Pollard revealed his “optimism” that current vaccines will continue to prevent serious disease – and suggested Omicron will not outrun the dominant Delta variant in Europe, writes our deputy political editor Rob Merrick.

Prof Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said it is “too early” to be certain whether the new variant will be able to evade current vaccinations, something unlikely to be known for 2-3 weeks. But he said most of the mutations in Omicron are in the same parts of the spike protein as those in the other variants that have emerged.

“That tells you that, despite those mutations existing in other variants, the vaccines have continued to prevent serious disease as we’ve moved through Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta,” he said.

Omicron variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to new Covid wave in UK, says vaccine expert

Spain closes border to unvaccinated Britons

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:00 , Sam Hancock

Spain has announced that as of next month, British tourists will only be admitted into the country if they can show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.

It comes amid tightening travel restrictions due to the new Omicron Covid variant, which is fast spreading across Europe.

Until now, British travellers could gain entry into Spain by showing a Covid vaccine certificate or via a negative PCR test result taken up to 72 hours before arriving.

“The appearance of new variants causing [Covid] obliges an increase in restrictions” with regard to people from the UK, the announcement in Spain’s Bulletin of State said.

It will come into force from next Wednesday (1 December).

Watch: Omicron variant may already be in US, says Fauci

Saturday 27 November 2021 22:36 , Sam Hancock

Approved anti-viral pill needs ‘rethink’ due to Omicron variant

Saturday 27 November 2021 22:20 , Sam Hancock

An anti-viral pill for Covid-19, which was approved for use in the UK on 4 November, needs a “rethink” because of the Omicron variant, England’s chief medical officer has said.

Molnupiravir, which can be taken at home, is for people who have had a positive Covid test and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, being over the age of 60, diabetes or heart disease.

Professor Chris Whitty said its rollout needs to be reconsidered to make sure it is targeted “in the right direction”.

“On the anti-virals, we are going to have to do a bit of a rethink on the basis of this new variant, just to be confident we’ve got the right indications from it,” he told a Downing Street press conference earlier.

“There’s a variety of ways you could use it in different ways, and what we need to make sure is whatever stock we’ve got of these, what appear to be highly effective drugs, that we use in the most effective way and for the right people.

“Where you are in the pathway right from the very beginning... working out their place, we do need to think through and I think we probably need to do a rethink of it just to make sure with the new variant, we’re targeting in the right direction.”

The drug, from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), works by interfering with the virus’ replication and prevents it from multiplying by keeping levels low in the body.

An undated image of anti-viral pill Molnupiravir (Merck & Co)
An undated image of anti-viral pill Molnupiravir (Merck & Co)

Watch: Pharmaceutical firms claim they can tweak vaccines to fight Omicron strain

Saturday 27 November 2021 21:58 , Sam Hancock

PM’s ‘precautionary’ restrictions dismissed as ‘Plan B Lite’

Saturday 27 November 2021 21:37 , Sam Hancock

Measures to deter the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus have been dismissed by scientists as “Plan B Lite” amid warnings that the new mutation is far more transmissible than earlier ones.

Boris Johnson responded to the arrival of Omicron in England by bringing back restrictions including the wearing of mask in shops and on public transport, 10-day isolation for contacts of variant cases and mandatory PCR tests for international arrivals.

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the measures were “Plan B Lite when we should have had Plan B Plus”.

Liam James has the full report:

Boris Johnson’s Omicron restrictions dismissed by scientists as ‘Plan B Lite’

Virologist says ‘extremely transmissible’ Omicron a concern

Saturday 27 November 2021 21:37 , Sam Hancock

A Belgian virologist has described the trend of Omicron taking over the Delta variant of Covid as worrying.

Asked how transmissible the new variant is, Marc Van Ranst told BBC News this evening it was important to look at the situation in South Africa.

When you look at what’s happening in SA – specifically the Johannesburg region – this new Covid variant has already managed to replace the extremely transmissible Delta variant,” he said, “and if it’s managed to do that in one place, it can probably do that all over the world.”

He went on: “And that essentially means you’re replacing a highly transmissible virus with an extremely transmissible virus, which is worrisome.”

Moving on to the variant’s deadliness, Mr Ranst said it was too early to compare Omicron to variants such as Delta.

Asked if the variant might be less deadly because it is so infectious, he said: “That is exactly what we hope.”

However, he acknowledged more research needs to be done before that can be known. “If it’s as pathogenic as delta, though, we could be in a mess,” Mr Ranst said.

Everything we know about the new Omicron variant

Saturday 27 November 2021 21:18 , Sam Hancock

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named the new B.1.1529 coronavirus variant “Omicron”, designating it as a variant of concern just weeks after it was first detected.

The announcement came on Friday amid growing concerns that it is highly transmissible and could reduce the efficacy of vaccines. However, given that Omicron only emerged recently, scientists believe it could take a few months before we have a more complete understanding of the scale of the threat it poses.

What is certain is that this variant, which descends from the B.1.1 lineage, is “unprecedented” and “very unusual” in the number of its mutations.

But, what else do we know? Eleanor Sly and Emily Atkinson investigate.

Everything we know about the new ‘Omicron’ variant

Private testing market condemned as ‘not fit for purpose’

Saturday 27 November 2021 20:45 , Sam Hancock

Some more expert commentary now, this time from Which? travel editor Rory Boland.

He said in a statement:

“Travellers will understand the rationale behind the government’s decision to reintroduce mandatory PCR tests for those returning to England.

“However, as Which? research has consistently shown, the private testing market isn’t fit for purpose - with serious implications not just for travellers but public health more generally. Testing firms have struggled to provide tests on time over the past year, so it is hard to have confidence they will be able to cope with this spike in demand at short notice.

“Now that the government has taken the decision to make PCR tests mandatory, it must take steps to properly regulate the marketplace and implement the CMA’s recommendations so that consumers can have confidence they are booking with a provider they can rely on.”

Watch: Mask-wearing back for shops and transport, PM tells public

Saturday 27 November 2021 20:30 , Sam Hancock

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for travel will work

Saturday 27 November 2021 20:15 , Sam Hancock

PCR tests are back for travellers arriving in the UK. Weeks after rules were eased to allow cheaper and faster lateral flow (antigen) tests, the government has tightened the rules once again in response to the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

At the same time, the previously dormant red list has been expanded and now contains 10 southern African nations.

But, what does it all mean? Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has the key questions and answers.

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for international travel will work

‘Disgrace’: Travel sector reacts to border measures announced by PM

Saturday 27 November 2021 20:00 , Sam Hancock

Let’s get some more industry reaction to today’s announcement, this time from the travel sector.

Abta, the travel association, has been speaking to our travel correspondent Simon Calder. A spokesperson told him:

“The decision to require all arrivals to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result is returned is a huge blow for travel businesses, many of whom were only just starting to get back on their feet after 20 months of severe restrictions.

“These changes will add cost to people’s holidays which will undoubtedly impact consumer demand and hold back the industry’s recovery, so it’s vital that this decision is kept under careful review and restrictions are lifted promptly if it becomes clear there is not a risk to the UK vaccination programme.”

Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said the measure was an overreaction. “It’s urgent that international protocols are introduced without delay to save lives, save economies and save our futures,” he said.

Meanwhile, veteran tour guide and photographer Paul Goldstein told Simon he wasn’t happy about the expansion of the UK red list. He said:

“It is a disgrace, penalising a country for their transparency and expertise by throwing them into the poor house.

“The list is now 10 countries, all of them utterly mystified and distraught by this persecution. European cases are rising, southern Africans not so, but they are the ones butchered.

“Travel apartheid continues to destroy economies as well as chucking the UK travel industry to the wolves.”

UK ‘added to Switzerland’s red list’ amid Omicron cases

Saturday 27 November 2021 19:51 , Sam Hancock

Policy adviser Paul Charles reports:

Scotland adopts border restrictions set out by PM

Saturday 27 November 2021 19:45 , Sam Hancock

Scotland will follow in England’s footsteps of introducing new border restrictions after two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in the UK, Humza Yousaf has said.

No cases of the new variant have been confirmed in Scotland to date, Scotland’s health secretary added.

Mr Yousaf said confirmation of the Omicron cases in the UK are “a stark reminder that we must not drop our guard”.

Following discussions with UK health secretary Sajid Javid and the other devolved administrations, he said Scotland is aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.

He said the measures will be introduced “as soon as possible” and kept under constant review.

The Scottish government will also adopt the expanded red list of countries identified by Boris Johnson’s government. “Until more is known we must adopt the precautionary principle and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection,” Mr Yousaf said.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, tweeted:

Watch: Omicron variant may already be in the US, warns Fauci

Saturday 27 November 2021 19:35 , Sam Hancock

Mayor of London welcomes new Covid measures

Saturday 27 November 2021 19:25 , Sam Hancock

Sadiq Khan has said the government’s decision to impose tighter restrictions on face masks is “welcome”, after London decided to make face masks mandatory on public transport months ago.

“Today’s announcement that face coverings will be compulsory on public transport nationwide, as they already are across TfL, is welcome,” the city’s mayor tweeted.

“Evidence shows they help stop the virus spreading, and this is a measure I’ve repeatedly urged the government to take.”

Schools told to bring back on-site testing post-Christmas

Saturday 27 November 2021 19:13 , Sam Hancock

Secondary schools should test pupils for coronavirus on their return from the Christmas holidays, the government has said.

The Department for Education (DfE) emailed schools on Friday urging them order a sufficient number of lateral flow tests by Tuesday to ensure that they can test pupils on site after they come back in January.

The move is necessary to “reduce transmission after a period of social mixing”, the email said, also asking school leaders to order additional tests so that pupils can continue to test at home.

Andy Gregory has the full report:

Schools told to bring back on-site Covid testing after Christmas holidays

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