Omicron variant response must go further as Boris Johnson ignores pandemic lessons – The Yorkshire Post says

IT is to the credit of scientists in Britain – and South Africa – that their expertise identified the potential virulence of Covid’s new Omicron variant so swiftly so measures could be taken to protect public health.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Saturday about the new Omicron variant of Covid.

Yet, while the Government has, in turn, responded with unusual haste by its standards, there remain a number of fundamental flaws that require wider scrutiny when Ministers brief MPs.

First, it beggars belief that new arrivals from southern African countries were allowed to travel freely around Britain, and not placed under immediate restrictions, from the very moment the new threat was confirmed last week – has nothing been learned during the pandemic?

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Next, Boris Johnson’s implication that anyone who enters the UK must take a PCR test by the end of the second day of their arrival, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, is at odds with Health Secretary Sajid Javid who says it will take time to put the arrangements in place.

The new Omicron variant of Covid has emerged from South Africa.

Now, the decision that compulsory mask-wearing will return in England’s shops and on public transport from tomorrow onwards. How will this be enforced – non-compliance has become endemic – and is there any plan to ventilate buildings, like schools, where the prevalence of Covid has been well-documented? Expecting teachers and pupils to keep windows open in this bitingly cold weather is unconscionable.

And the challenges do not end here. Attempts to accelerate the rollout of Covid booster jabs need to go in tandem with global action agreed at the G7 summit to inoculate families in the world’s poorest countries if the effects of new mutations are to be minimised.

Given this, the initial swiftness of Ministers now needs to be matched by a much more robust response if the progress made to date in thwarting Covid is not to be put at unnecessary risk.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Saturday about the new Omicron variant of Covid.