Third case of Omicron variant detected in the UK

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Omicron has now also been detected in a number of other countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and Israel.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the person in the third UK case had been linked to travel in southern Africa. Testing is being carried out at locations they visited in London’s Westminster area.

The agency said it was “very likely” more cases would be found in the coming days.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, said: “Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread.

“We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.

“It’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately. Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant.”

The first UK cases were confirmed on Saturday in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham. Contact tracing is taking place and Essex County Council is asking people who were at a church and a KFC outlet in the Brentwood to get a PCR test.