Omicron coronavirus cases confirmed in Bexley and Lewisham

Nine further cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been identified in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

It means the total number of confirmed cases in England is now 22, the agency said.

One of those nine is in Bexley, and a further two are in Lewisham.

The people who have tested positive and their contacts are isolating, with work under way to establish if there are any links to travel to southern Africa.

The UKHSA said it has now identified cases of the Omicron variant in the East Midlands, East of England, London, the South East and North West.

A further case has also been identified in Scotland, the agency said, bringing the total across the nation to 10.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: “It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days, as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing.

“That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.”

Where else are there Omicron cases in England by local authority?

Barnet: 2

Bexley: 1

Brentwood: 1

Buckinghamshire: 1

Camden: 2

Haringey: 1

Lancaster: 1

Lewisham: 2

Liverpool: 1

Newham: 1

North Norfolk: 1

Nottingham: 1

South Cambridgeshire: 1

Sutton: 1

Three Rivers: 1

Wandsworth: 1

Westminster: 3

The Omicron variant has been reported in 23 countries, World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

Speaking at a WHO press briefing, he said: “The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron and we expect that number to grow.

“WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country.

“But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do.

“And it’s what this virus will continue to do as long as we allow it to continue spreading.

“We’re learning more all the time about Omicron, but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus will continue to rise.

Speaking to broadcasters, Mr Javid said: “As I’ve said recently, we do expect cases to go up.”

But he said the measures introduced had been “balanced and proportionate”, as he added: “Our strategy is all about buying time, buying time so that we can assess it, but also (so) that we can build our defences and we’ve been really clear in the last few days, I think, that the best way to continue to defend ourselves is through our fantastic vaccine programme.”

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