BOTH the Welsh and UK Governments are working in line to be able to combat the ‘concerning’ Omicron variant and to keep the regions open through the Christmas period. 

But both governments have urged people to act with caution this festive period.

There have been 13 cases of the Omicron variant of Covid found in England and nine in Scotland.

In a press conference this afternoon, Sajid Javid – secretary of state for health and social care – said that the cases in England that were identified on the weekend were: “All linked to travel to south Africa.”

He continued: “The recent cases we've confirmed today we're not able to say whether or not at this point as we are working at speed to see if there is a link. We will be realistic as to whether there could be community transmission and we expect cases to rise as we are now actively looking for the cases."

While there have been no cases in Wales as of yet, health minister Eluned Morgan said at the Welsh Government’s press conference this lunchtime that it was a concerning variant and that we should expect cases to appear in Wales. 

Little is currently known about the variant, however, scientists are working around the clock to investigate the strain. They do already believe that it could lead to re-infection.

Both governments confirmed that the booster vaccinations will be offered to all adults over the age of 18 in a move to protect the public from the variant. So far, 18million have been given in the UK, with 840,000 of these in Wales.

They also confirmed that the JCVI have recommended the gap between the second dose and the booster dose to be halved from the original six months to three months and all those eligible will be contacted. All who are eligible were urged to get the booster when contacted by both governments as it offers "more antibodies than the original course" according to Mr Javid.


Both governments also highlighted that there will be pressure on the NHS to deliver this with Dr Gill Richardson – speaking alongside Ms Morgan at the Welsh Government’s conference – calling the rollout to be an “incredible challenge”. She said: "We will need a real call to arms for our workforce for this. That will probably include volunteers, almost definitely include third sector volunteers.

"We will be looking at additional capacity for bank staff. We will be looking at students assisting in clinics.

"Of course there are other roles that are not actually vaccinators.

"We will be having a real push in recognition that we are going to need to increase our workforce."

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England also called it a challenge but said that they will be drafting in 400 Armed Forces personnel to assist with everything from logistics to vaccinations and that they would be looking to recruit 10,000 paid helpers.

Both governments also praised the work of the NHS as a whole for the way they have administered the vaccine programme as well as working to maintain the normal services.

Self-isolation rules have also changed in the UK – with anyone who has come into contact with a positive Omicron case having to self-isolate – no matter their age or vaccination status. Both governments have said that this is not going to see the same levels as back in July when businesses were left short staffed due to people needing to isolate.

Anyone returning from 10 countries in the south of Africa - Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – will have to isolate in a quarantine hotel for 10 days and this will have to be in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland as there are no quarantine hotels in Wales.

Anyone returning from abroad will have to take a PCR test on their return.

Despite the concern with the new variant, both governments are continuing to monitor the situation and are currently doing everything they can to keep the country running.

The Welsh Government will be holding its next 21-day review a week on Friday.