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Omicron ‘squandering’ UK Covid progress, says top scientist – follow live


Nicola Sturgeon receives her booster jab

Britain’s bid to stamp out the threat of coronavirus is “being squandered” by the new omicron variant, one of the nation’s top scientists has warned.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said omicron’s emergence shows that the world is “closer to the start of the pandemic than the end” – and that rich countries had been”lulled into thinking that the worst was behind us”.

“This political drift and lack of leadership is prolonging the pandemic for everyone, with governments unwilling to really address inequitable access to the vaccines, tests and treatment,” Sir Jeremy, who last month stepped down as a government scientific adviser citing “concerning” rates of the virus, wrote in the Observer. “There have been wonderful speeches, warm words, but not the actions needed to ensure fair access to what we know works and would bring the pandemic to a close.”

His warning came hours after health secretary Sajid Javid announced new rules for all UK travellers, including that from 4am on Tuesday morning, anyone heading to the UK from countries not on the Red List will be required to take a pre-departure test – regardless of their vaccination status.

Follow our live coverage below

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What are the new travel rules?

Following my last post, here’s our travel correspondent Simon Calder with everything you need to know about travelling to the UK under the latest changes.

Testing rules for travellers to the UK will revert largely to where they were months ago, the health secretary has said.

Airlines, holiday firms and cruise and ferry lines are aghast at the latest government U-turn, just a week after the red list was revived and testing rules toughened.

Sajid Javid has also extended the red list, requiring travellers returning from Nigeria who arrive after 4am on Monday 6 December to go into hotel quarantine at a cost of thousands of pounds.

So, how will these changes work in practise? Simon takes a closer look.

What are the new Covid travel rules?

‘The blanket re-introduction of testing to enter the UK, on top of the current regime of isolation and PCR testing on arrival, is completely out of step with the rest of the world’ – Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO

Sam Hancock5 December 2021 08:07

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Travellers to UK now require pre-departure test

Last night, Sajid Javid announced new travel rules related to the omicron variant.

From 4am Monday, only UK/Irish citizens and residents travelling from Nigeria will be allowed entry into the UK and must isolate in a managed quarantine facility, the health secretary wrote on Twitter.

He added that, from 4am Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the Red List will be required to take a pre-departure test, regardless of their vaccination status.

He also urged people to get vaccinated. “Vaccines remain our first line of defence – the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Please get vaccinated or #GetBoosted as soon as you can,” he said.

Here’s the tweet in case you missed it:

Sam Hancock5 December 2021 08:03

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UK’s Covid progress ‘squandered’ by omicron, warns top scientist

One of Britain’s most senior scientific figures has warned that the emergence of the omicron Covid variant shows the world is “closer to the start of the pandemic than the end” – and that the UK’s fight against the virus is “being squandered”.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, who stepped down as a government scientific adviser last month, said rich countries had been taking “a very blinkered domestic focus, lulled into thinking that the worst of the pandemic was behind us”.

Writing in the Observer, he also said while he was cautiously hopeful that current vaccines would protect against severe illness from omicron, that may not be true for future variants.

“The longer this virus continues to spread in largely unvaccinated populations globally, the more likely it is that a variant that can overcome our vaccines and treatments will emerge,” he wrote in the Sunday paper. “If that happens, we could be close to square one.

“This political drift and lack of leadership is prolonging the pandemic for everyone, with governments unwilling to really address inequitable access to the vaccines, tests and treatment. There have been wonderful speeches, warm words, but not the actions needed to ensure fair access to what we know works and would bring the pandemic to a close.”

He added that the urgent action needed had not changed – “wearing masks indoors, increasing testing, social distancing, isolating if positive (with support to do so) and vaccination will all help to drive down transmission and protect against illness”.

Farrar announced he was quitting the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month, warning of ‘concerning high levels of transmission’ in Britain

(Reuters)

Sam Hancock5 December 2021 08:00

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Good morning

Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coronavirus coverage. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates on the spread of omicron, including statistics and analysis from the experts.

Sam Hancock5 December 2021 07:52


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