BORIS Johnson will address the nation in a press conference at 5pm this evening after two cases of a mutant Covid strain were recorded in Britain.
The PM will speak alongside Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty tonight – as fears of another Christmas lockdown loom.
Sajid Javid today confirmed that two people tested positive for the Omicron variant in Chelmsford and Nottingham.
The cases are linked and both infected people are isolating with their families, the Health Secretary added.
The infected people travelled to the UK from southern Africa – where an explosion of new Omicron cases have been reported.
In a bid to combat the spread, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia have been added to the UK Government's red list meaning arrivals must isolate at home for 10 days from 4am tomorrow.
Targeted testing is also being rolled out in Nottingham and Chelmsford as a "precaution".
Making the announcement, Mr Javid told Sky News: "Late last night I was contacted by the UK Health Security Agency.
"I was informed that they have detected two cases of this new variant, Omicron, in the United Kingdom.
"One in Chelmsford, the other in Nottingham."
He added in a statement: "Thanks to our world class genomic sequencing we have been made aware of two UK cases of the Omicron variant.
"We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing.
"We will do all we can to protect the UK public against this emerging threat and that is why we are surging testing capacity to the impacted communities and introducing travel restrictions on a further four countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.
"We will not hesitate to take further action if required.
"This is a stark reminder that we are not yet out of this pandemic.
"Getting the vaccine has never been more important – please come forward for your first jab if you haven’t already and if eligible, book your booster as soon as possible."
Senior Government scientists earlier warned the mutant variant was the “worst variant they have seen so far” – with vaccines expected to be at least a third less effective against it.
The strain was behind an explosion of new cases in South Africa, with some regions seeing a six-fold rise in infections in a matter of days.
The Government yesterday clamped down on travel from African, slapping six African countries on the travel red list.
And now, in line with updated advice from the UKHSA, from 4am Sunday Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will be added to the travel red list.
It comes as fears of a second Christmas lockdown grow, with Prof Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, warning Brits to be "ready for the possibility of a change in the restrictions”.
MrJavid said the new variant identified in South Africa “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain and added “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”.
Officials are also desperately trying to trace thousands who have arrived from South Africa in the past ten days.
Scientists said the new strain was unlikely to be in the UK, but with up to 700 people flying in a day, they could not rule it out.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, said it was "always possible" the variant had reached the UK.
Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme if it was in the UK, she said: "It's always possible, we have no cases identified whatsoever yet."
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