London: The United Kingdom on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19, both linked to travel from southern Africa, reported news agency AFP. “We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing,” Britain Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.Also Read - Govt Plans Staggered Reopening of Schools As COVID Cases Decline, Likely to Issue Guidelines Soon: Report

The government also said it was adding four more countries to the travel ban red list from 4 AM on Sunday: Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. This adds to the six countries on the ban list since Friday: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. “We’ve always been very clear that we won’t hesitate to take further action if that is what is required,” said Javid. Also Read - MHA Extends Coronavirus Guidelines Till February 28, Asks States Not to Let Guard Down

“Today I can announce one thing that we are doing immediately is carrying out targeted testing and sequencing of positive cases in the two areas that are affected. This is a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over. If there is one thing that everyone can be doing, right now, is if they are eligible, please take your vaccine, whether it’s your first shot, second shot, or your booster jab,” Javid said. Also Read - Omicron Not Result Of Recombination Between Previous Variants: Study

Researchers are racing to track the rise of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2, which is found to harbour a large number of the mutations found in other variants, including Delta. The new variant, known as B.1.1.529, has been detected in small numbers in South Africa. The WHO on Friday assigned the Greek letter Omicron to the variant.

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021.

(With inputs from agency)