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The new Covid variant 'Omicron' was first officially identified in South Africa last week but countries have been quick to implement new measures.

On Saturday Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced:

  • Face masks to be be worn in shops and public transport from Tuesday November 30th
  • All International arrivals to take a day 2 PCR test and isolate until a negative result
  • Close contacts of any new Omicron cases to self isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status
  • Further countires added to the 'red' list where arrivals need to prebook approved hotel accomodation

This morning the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers have called for all international arrivals to isolate for 8 days and take a PCR test on days 2 and 8.

Whilst little is known about the new Covid variant and whether current vaccines are effective it is worth noting what Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association has said.

She told Reuters that on 18 November she noticed seven patients at her clinic who had symptoms different from the dominant Delta variant, albeit "very mild".

Coetzee said a patient on Nov. 18 reported at her clinic being "extremely fatigued" for two days with body aches and headache.

"Symptoms at that stage was very much related to normal viral infection. And because we haven't seen COVID-19 for the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test," she said, adding that the patient and his family turned out to be positive.

On the same day, more patients came in with similar symptoms, which was when she realised there was "something else going on." Since then, she's seen two to three patients a day.

"We have seen a lot of Delta patients during the third wave. And this doesn't fit in the clinical picture," she said, adding she alerted NICD on the same day with the clinical results.

"Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries. We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home," she said.

So far in the UK with currently nine confirmed cases there have been no reports of anyone being hospitalised.

Willie Walsh, who is currently director-general of airline trade body the International Air Transport Association, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“I’m very disappointed to see this knee-jerk reaction by governments to the latest development.

“It’s clear that these measures have been completely ineffective in the past but impose huge hardship on people who are trying to connect with families and friends, and clearly massive financial damage to the tourism and airline industry.”

“I think sensible testing regimes which have been proven to be effective could be introduced which would enable people to continue travelling in a safe environment.

“It’s disappointing that the Government does not reflect on the significant data that they have available.”
Walsh says 9.1 million PRC tests have been carried out on passengers arriving in the UK, with 0.8% testing positive. At the same time, the positivity rate in the UK was over 8%.

One thing is for sure for the UK Government 'damned if you do and damned if you don't'.