The measures, which will be introduced from next week, include:
- All international arrivals must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
- All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
- Face coverings will be made compulsory in shops and on public transport from next week. All hospitality settings will be exempt.
Those measures are precautionary and will be reviewed in three weeks, Johnson announced on Saturday during a news conference at 10 Downing Street.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, said at the same news conference as Johnson that there was still much uncertainty around Omicron, but “there is a reasonable chance that at least there will be some degree of vaccine escape with this variant.”
Omicron, another variant of the CCP virus, was first reported in South Africa on Wednesday. The World Health Organization (WHO) said it has “a large number of mutations” and some of them are concerning.
“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs (Variants of Concern),” the WHO said in a statement.
The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs, and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.
Johnson’s announcement came after cases of the Omicron variant were found in several European countries.
The UK, Germany, and Italy detected cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday.
The health ministry in the German state of Bavaria announced two confirmed cases of the variant. The two people entered Germany at Munich airport on Nov. 24, before Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant area, and were now isolating, said the ministry, indicating without stating explicitly that the people had traveled from South Africa.
In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.
Czech health authorities also said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia.
Reuters contributed to the report.