- Sputnik International, 1920
Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.

UK Deputy PM Says COVID ‘Plan B’ is ‘Not Required’ in Face of Omicron Variant

© REUTERS / TOM NICHOLSONBritain's Justice Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain November 30, 2021
Britain's Justice Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain November 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.12.2021
The British government's initial response to the new Omicron variant has been low-key, making mask-wearing compulsory in shops and on public transport as well as banning all but essential travel from 10 African countries. But its spread across the UK has raised fears of another Christmas lockdown.
The UK's justice secretary and deputy PM has insisted that the government is not considering a "plan B" COVID-19 lockdown to deal with the Omicron variant.
Dominic Raab faced a grilling by BBC Radio Four's Today Programme host Nick Robinson on Tuesday over his handling of the chaotic withdrawal from the Afghan capital Kabul in August.
But Robinson also pressed the Cabinet minister on Downing Street's response to the new variant, recently identified in South Africa, implying the government was holding back on more draconian measures for fear of harming the economy or ruining another Christmas.
He quoted Health Secretary Sajid Javid's comments on Monday that the government was "leaving nothing to chance" with the Omicron variant.
"Surely if you were leaving nothing to chance, you would 'plan B', you would have greater social distancing", Robinson said.

"We’re doing everything that can be done to tackle the risk that we face, and we’re doing it in a proportional way that doesn't create other risks and other challenges", Raab replied.

The interview became tetchy as the justice secretary accused the presenter of repeatedly interrupting him — to which Robinson interjected that he was not. "You're doing it now!" Raab objected.

"We don’t think Plan B is required. Why? Because of the success of the vaccine programme", Raab said.

He pointed out that almost 90% of those over 12 years of age had been given at least one jab, while a third of them had had their booster shot, and insisted "we’re taking a targeted and a proportionate approach".
Healthcare worker administers the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a woman, in Johannesburg - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
Omicron COVID Strain
Top South African Doctor Says Omicron Dominance Would Be 'First Prize' in COVID Fight
Robinson pointed to references to "reducing contact" and "working from home" from the government's SAGE advisory committee. "Are you choosing not to do that because you think the consequences would be too severe?"
"We're always weighing up all the advice we get, particularly the scientific advice, and making sure we take the most effective and balanced measures to deal with the situation and the risks that we face", Raab answered.

"But the point is that we're in a fundamentally different position" thanks to the success of the immunisation drive, he stressed. "That puts us in a more resilient position".

Interviewed by Sky News' Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Raab opposed US-style vaccine mandates in the face of the new, more transmissible - yet largely harmless - new coronavirus mutation.
Javid was forced to admit to Parliament on Monday that of the 336 cases of the Omicron variant so far identified in the UK, not one had resulted in a patient being so ill that they were hospitalised.
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