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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.

Northern Ireland to Impose COVID-19 Restrictions After Christmas to Curb Surge of Omicron Strain

© AP Photo / PETERShoppers go about their Christmas shopping at the continental market at Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland (File)
Shoppers go about their Christmas shopping at the continental market at Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
LONDON (Sputnik) - Northern Ireland will impose restrictions the day after Christmas to curb spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain, which now accounts for over 40% of COVID-19 infections in the country, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said.

"The executive has taken [a] decision to protect people and protect the health service over the coming days and weeks", O'Neill said in a video posted on her Twitter account on Wednesday.

The deputy minister told reporters that nightclubs would be closed and indoor dancing would not be allowed from 6 a.m. on 26 December. Moreover, all indoor standing events will be prohibited.
In addition, starting 27 December, only residents of a maximum of three households will be allowed to gather together. Guests will also be required to be seated with a maximum of six people, or 10 people from a single household at a table.
Citizens are also recommended to work from home and to maintain a social distance of two metres.
The deputy minister said the decision would help keep infection rates down and relieve the pressure put on healthcare workers and emergency services.
People walk past a store decorated for Christmas on New Bond Street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, December 21, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
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The measures may be revised on 30 December, O'Neill said. The Northern Irish authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
The United Kingdom has faced a surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of Christmas. The country has been breaking records for several days in the number of registered infections. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases with the Omicron strain has exceeded 74,000. The Ministry of Health has predicted that the number of Omicron infections in the country may exceed a million by the end of December.
On 8 December, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would move to so-called Plan B. Britons are now encouraged to work from home whenever possible and required to wear a face covering. In addition, a COVID-19 pass confirming vaccination is now mandatory for visiting crowded places. Daily testing is required for those who may have come into contact with carriers of the coronavirus.
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