The cases were found after targeted testing (Picture: PA/Getty)
Cases of the Omicron variant in the UK are continuing to rise with another 26 reported today.
The Health Security Agency (HSA) said 25 of the new cases are in England while one is in Scotland.
It brings the total number across the UK to 160, after 75 new cases were detected yesterday.
Cases have now been identified in East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East, South West and West Midlands, as well as parts of Scotland and Wales.
Those who test positive with Omicron are being asked to self-isolate for 10 days, with targeted testing underway in areas where there have been outbreaks.
Scientists have described the variant as the ‘most worrying ever’ because of its ability to evade immunity from vaccines or prior infection.
The HSA said today that new evidence indicates Omicron may shorten the window between infection and infectiousness compared to other strains.
The ‘reduced incubation ‘ period informed the government’s decision to require that travellers arriving in England take a Covid-19 pre-departure test.
HSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: ‘We are working as fast as possible to gather more evidence about any impact the new variant may have on severity of disease or vaccine effectiveness.
‘Until we have this evidence, we must exercise the highest level of caution in drawing conclusions about any significant risks to people’s health.’
The Department of Health added: ‘New analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which increases the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.
‘Given the reduced incubation period of the Omicron variant, passengers are advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.’
The new measure will come into force at 4am on Tuesday December 7.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that Nigeria is also being added to the government’s travel red list.
‘Since we have learned of this new variant our strategy has been to buy time. We have always said we will act swiftly should new data require it,’ he told broadcasters.
‘Over recent days we have learned of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria.
‘There are 27 cases already in England and that’s growing. Nigeria now is second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to Omicron.’
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) later said the correct figure was 21.
The Scottish and Welsh governments said they were both adopting similar controls.
Ministers hope border controls and an accelerated booster programme will stop a new wave of infections caused by Omicron.
Booster jabs were initially only offered to over-50s, people in care homes, frontline health and social care workers and vulnerable people between 16 and 49.
However, on Monday it was announced all adults over 18 would be offered an extra vaccine by January.
For more stories like this, check our news page.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.