Two cases of the Omicron variant feared to have higher re-infection rates have been detected in the UK, as the British Government added four extra African nations to their travel red list.
The individuals and all members of their households were told to enter self-isolation after one case was detected in Chelmsford, Essex, and another in Nottingham.
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed the cases, which are both believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said anyone from the UK who has travelled in the last 10 days to the 10 countries now on the red list, with Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola being added to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, they must self-isolate and take PCR tests.
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said:
The UK is the second European nation to have reported the presence of Omicron after Belgium said it had identified a single case on Friday.
Ministers said non-UK and Irish residents who have been in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England from 4am on Sunday.
Those who are permitted to return will be ordered to isolate in a Government-approved facility for 10 days.
South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe were added to the red list on Friday, and the UK imposed a ban on flights leaving from those nations.
Meanwhile in Ireland, Irish residents returning home from the area in southern Africa where a new Covid variant has been identified will have to undergo home quarantine and PCR testing.
It is one of a number of measures being introduced following concerns about transmission levels of the new Omicron strain.
Ireland currently has no direct flights from any of the countries affected.
The Government has announced the State is to align with the EU recommendation to apply the “emergency brake” and to discourage travel to or from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Department of Justice is updating visa requirements for those countries and the Department of Foreign Affairs has changed its travel advisory to “avoid non-essential travel” to these countries.