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LONDON, Dec 5, (Agencies): Britain’s government tightened travel restrictions Saturday amid concerns about the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, saying all travelers arriving in England will need to take a COVID- 19 test before they board their flight. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new rules will apply from 4 a.m. London time Tuesday. “In light of the most recent data, we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant,” he said in a tweet. Javid also added Nigeria to the U.K.’s travel “red list,” which means that arrivals from there will be banned except for U.K. and Irish residents, and those travellers must isolate in designated quarantine facilities. He said there was a “significant number” of omicron cases linked to travel with Nigeria, with 27 cases recorded in England. Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the new measures will be a “major deterrent” to travel, just as airports and the travel industry were hoping for a small uplift over the festive season.
“This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said Authorities recorded another 42,848 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. as of Saturday, with 127 more deaths. With over 145,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic, Britain has the second-highest virus death toll in Europe after Russia. As of Saturday, 58 additional Coronavirus variant omicron cases have been confirmed in the European Union and European Economic Area , contributing to an overall total of 167 confirmed cases so far. Cases have been reported by 17 EU countries, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said in a statement. The majority of confirmed cases have a history of travel to African countries, with some having taken connecting flights at other locations between Africa and Europe. All cases for which there is available information on severity were either asymptomatic or mild. No deaths have been reported among these cases so far, it noted. These figures should be assessed with caution as the number of confirmed cases is too low to understand if the disease clinical spectrum of omicron differs from that of previously detected variants, it added. New York announced three more cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus Saturday, bringing the number of state cases linked to the new variant to eight.
“The omicron variant is here, and as anticipated we are seeing the beginning of community spread,” state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a news release. The number of states finding the variant is growing as well, with Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington state announcing their first cases Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland reported their first confirmed cases. Missouri reported its first presumed case Friday.