Omicron Northern Ireland: What is Omicron Variant, what are Omicron symptoms and latest travel restrictions

There has been growing concern about the new covid Omicron Variant throughout the UK, but what is it and what are the symptoms?

By Sarah McCann, Search and Trends Writer
Monday, 29th November 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 4:10 pm

The new variant Omicron has seen swift restrictions on travel come into force across the UK.

But as concern grows, there are many questions about the new Covid variant.

Here's everything you need to know about the Omicrom variant that we know so far.

Why is it called Omicron variant?

The new Covid variant is called Omicron, named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.

It was named by the WHO using their new naming convention that was brought in, in May 2021.

The WHO skipped two Greek letters just before Omicron “Nu” and “Xi”, this was to avoid confusion as 'Nu' sounded like new and 'Xi' is a common last name.

Masks have once again been made mandatory on transport and in shops in England.

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What is the Omicron Variant?

The variant was detected in South Africa and named by the WHO on Friday, November 26.

The Omicron variant's potential danger is not fully understood.

There has been a growing concern around the variant and what this could mean for infection rates.

Omicron has 30 mutations - twice as many as the Delta variant, and including ones scientists had not yet seen before.

This could mean that the variant is more transmissible, but the good news is that it can still be detected with a normal PCR test.

Where have cases been detected so far?

Cases of Omicron were first reported in South Africa, but have now been discovered in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Israel and Hong Kong.

The UK has also discovered cases in England and Scotland so far, it is expected that more cases will be uncovered in the coming days.

What are Omicron Variant symptoms?

The WHO have stated there is no new information to suggest Omicron symptoms are different than normal Covid symptoms.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that on 18 November seven of her patients had symptoms different than the Delta variant, although they were "very mild".

She confirmed with Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the main symptoms she had documented were fatigue, a scratchy throat, mild headache and body aches.

Dr Coetzee, commented that the patients she had been treating had no reported loss of taste or smell, unlike the Delta variant.

However, it will take more research to confirm if there are any stand out symptoms that differ.

What are the new travel restrictions?

From Tuesday, November 30, if you are entering the UK from any country other than Ireland, you have to take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

You can no longer take a lateral flow test.

The PCR test must be booked prior to travelling back to the UK and come from an approved government supplier, you can find the full list here.

While you are waiting for a result, you must self-isolate - whether or not you have been vaccinated. You can stop self-isolating if your test is negative.

What countries are now on the red list?

The UK quickly added the following countries to the red list:

South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia.

This means for anyone wishing to travel back to the UK from these countries after midday on Friday, November 26, they will have to quarantine upon arrival at a cost of £2,285 for 10 days for one adult, £1,430 for a child over 11 and £325 for a child aged 5 to 11.

What are the new Covid restrictions UK?

On Saturday, November 27, Boris Johnston confirmed additional restrictions would come into force in England.

From Tuesday, face masks will once again be mandatory in shops and on public transport, with fines of up to £200 foe anyone not adhering to the rules.

Pupils, staff and visitors at secondary schools in England are being "strongly advised" to wear face coverings in communal areas.

And anyone who comes into contacts with those who have suspected Omicron cases will have to self-isolate for 10 days, whether or not they have been vaccinated.

In Northern Ireland plans are being made to help detect the new variant, in a statement released on Sunday, the Health Minister Robin Swan urged people to get vaccinated in a bid to protect themselves against any variant of the virus.

Monday, November 29 will also see the Vaccine Passport come into use in Northern Ireland.

Will there be another lockdown?

The UK government have reiterated that there will are no plans for another lockdown.

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