FILE – People line up to get on an overseas flight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 26, 2021. As the world grapples with the emergence of the new highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, worried scientists in South Africa — where omicron was first identified — are scrambling to combat its lightning spread across the country. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
FILE – People queue to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo’s airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 26, 2021. As the world grapples with the emergence of the new highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, worried scientists in South Africa — where omicron was first identified — are scrambling to combat its lightning spread across the country. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
A sign reading ‘Stay safe’ in Regent Street, in London, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A doorman controls European passport COVID-19 to customers before the access of a bar discotheque, in Pamplona, northern Spain. Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Some Spanish regional communities demand from this midnight European passport COVID-19, Navarra Community one of them, in an effort to try to control the pandemic with a high curve of cases. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
FILE – President Joe Biden talks about the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Nov. 3, 2021. Biden’s team views the pandemic as the root cause of both the nation’s malaise and his own political woes. It sees getting more people vaccinated and finally controlling COVID-19 as the key to reviving the country and Biden’s own standing. But the coronavirus has proved to be a vexing challenge for the White House. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
A public order official checks the COVID-19 vaccination certificates of skiers at the Rauher Busch ski slope in Winterberg, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)
A sign indicating COVID-19 restrictions is seen at the Rauher Busch ski slope in Winterberg, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)
LONDON (AP) — Britain became the latest country Saturday to report cases of the new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus as world governments sought to shore up their defenses by slapping restrictions on travel from nations in southern Africa.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that two people have tested positive with the omicron variant in the southeastern English town of Chelmsford and in the central city of Nottingham. He said the cases were linked and related to travel from southern Africa.
Javid said the two confirmed cases are self-isolating alongside their households while contact tracing and targeted testing takes place. He also said arrivals from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia will have to quarantine from Sunday and stressed the importance of booster jabs.
“This is a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over,” he said. “If we need to take further action, we will.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with his top advisers, will be holding a media briefing later Saturday.
Many countries have slapped restrictions on various African countries over the past couple of days including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissability of the new variant — against the advice of the World Health Organization. Pharmaceutical companies expressed optimism that they could finesse their vaccines to deal with the new variant though that would clearly take some time.