One of two first UK cases of new Covid-19 variant Omicron has been detected in Nottingham.
The Department of Health announced on Saturday (Nov 27) the person’s case had been discovered in the city.
It was picked up through testing carried out overnight to check positive Covid-19 samples for signs of new versions of the virus.
The case is one of two discovered overnight – the other was found in Chelmsford.
Both cases are linked, the Government said, and both people are connected to travel to Southern Africa.
Omicron was first reported to the World Health Organisation by South Africa on Wednesday and has been classed as being “of concern”.
Early evidence suggests Omicron has a higher re-infection risk. It is not yet know whether it has any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists have also not yet established if it causes more severe illness than previous versions of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that the new variant was being considered as “of concern”.
No further information about the location or condition of the two infected people has been released.
In a statement released on Saturday afternoon, the Department of Health said: “The individuals that have tested positive, and all members of their households, are being re-tested and told to self-isolate while further testing and contact tracing is underway.”
It added: “Confirmed cases and contacts are being followed up and requested to isolate and get tested as necessary.”
Variants of the virus are picked up through a scientific process called genome sequencing, which closely examines the makeup of individual positive cases of the virus.
The new variant follows others which have been detected in the UK including one which developed in England and became known as the Kent variant and Delta, which originated in India and became the dominant version circulating across the country.
The latest version is known scientifically as B.1.1.529, but was given the designation ‘Omicron’ on Friday by the World Health Organisation.
Travel to and from South Africa has already been suspended in the UK and other countries have also been put on the country’s ‘red list’ banning travel.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We will do all we can to protect the UK public against this emerging threat and that is why we are surging testing capacity to the impacted communities and introducing travel restrictions on a further four countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola. We will not hesitate to take further action if required.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “We will continue to work closely with the international community to quickly gather and analyse information on this variant to understand any possible increase in transmissibility or resistance to vaccines.
“It is important that everyone takes sensible precautions – get a PCR test if you have symptoms, isolate when asked, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, ventilate rooms, get your vaccine and boosters as soon as you can.”
Viruses often mutate to create new variants, meaning their genetic structure changes. Not all variants make a virus more transmissible, dangerous or resistant to immunity or vaccines.
But Omicron has caused significant concern among scientists because it has a high level of difference from the early versions of Covid-19 first detected in Wuhan, China, which vaccines are based on.
In the week to November 21 there have been 1,133 cases of Covid-19 overall detected in Nottingham city and 3,920 in the county.
The rate of cases per 100,000 people for the city and county combined stands at 431.7, slightly below the current national average of 437.