‘Too late’ to stop Omicron variant despite travel restrictions, says scientist

On Saturday, it was announced all travellers arriving in England will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test from Tuesday

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It is “too late” to effectively halt the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, a Government science adviser has warned.

On Saturday, it was announced all travellers arriving in England will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test from Tuesday – while Nigeria is being added to the Government’s travel red list.

Ministers said the extra test was intended to be a temporary measure following new data showing an increase in the number of cases of the new strain linked to foreign travel.

But Professor Mark Woolhouse, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) which advises the Government, said the measures would not make a “material difference” as the variant is already “spreading pretty rapidly”.

He told the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “I think that may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

“If Omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there’s community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks that way, then it’s that community transmission that will drive a next wave.

“The cases that are being imported are important, we want to detect those and isolate any positive cases we find, as we would for any case anywhere.

“But I think it’s too late to make a material difference to the course of the Omicron wave, if we’re going to have one.”

The travel industry reacted with fury after the latest measures were announced, despite ministers insisting they were only “temporary”.