Nearly 50 direct flights from South Africa have arrived in the UK since the new Covid variant was first detected, MailOnline can reveal.
The 'monster' Omicron strain was first detected by health officials in Botswana on November 11 before spreading across the region and then leapfrogging to Europe and the Far East.
All flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia were banned by Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday amid growing international panic about the strain, which scientists believe is more transmissible and has an increased risk of reinfection.
During this period, there were two British Airways flights and one Virgin Atlantic flight per day, an analysis by MailOnline has found. If each plane carried 300 passengers, that could mean there have been 14,400 arrivals from South Africa since Omicron was first detected.
The Prime Minister is due to hold a Downing Street press conference at 5pm this evening, where he will set out further measures, after two cases of the new variant were detected in Nottingham and Brentwood.
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. The individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious
Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will face travel restrictions from Sunday.
Boris Johnson will address the nation alongside chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Mr Javid said 'this is a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over' as he urged people to get their vaccines, including boosters.
Between November 11 and November 26, there were 48 direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to London Heathrow. During this period, there were two British Airways flights and one Virgin Atlantic flight per day. If each plane carried 300 passengers, that could mean there have been 14,400 arrivals from South Africa since Omicron was first detected
Cases of Omicron have already been picked up in the UK, South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It is not yet known whether the variant arrived in the Netherlands yesterday but Dutch authorities are sequencing passengers' tests. There are also suspected individual cases being sequenced in Germany, the Czech Republic and Australia
Britain has sequenced two cases of the Omicron variant in Nottingham and Chelmsford, Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed this afternoon
The 'monster' strain, named Omicron and designated a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation on Friday, has reached the UK and Belgium after being discovered in South Africa
South Africa recorded 2,828 new Covid cases yesterday, more than double the 1,374 recorded last Thursday, but infection levels have yet to skyrocket and no hospitalisations with the new variant have occurred so far. Graph shows: The seven-day average for cases in the country
Alarms were today raised after one in ten passengers coming into the Netherlands from South Africa this morning tested positive for Covid and a wave of suspected cases of the new super-mutant variant were spotted in Europe.
Around 600 passengers arrived on two planes in Schipol Airport, near Amsterdam, from Johannesburg — the epicentre for the new strain that experts fear is 40 per cent more vaccine evasive than Delta — hours after travel bans were put in place.
Some 61 of those on the planes tested positive for the virus on PCR tests after they were stopped at the airport, despite having tested negative before boarding the flight.
People returning to the Netherlands from outside the EU are required to take to show either a negative PCR tests taken 48 hours before their arrival or a negative lateral flow swab done 24 hours before coming back.
The test results have to include name and contact information of the institute, doctor or laboratory that conducted the test.
Europe's first case of the variant was spotted in Belgium yesterday — despite the unvaccinated woman who caught it having travelled to Turkey and Egypt, not souther Africa where the strain emerged.
The UK confirmed it had sequenced two cases today — in Nottingham and Brentford, Essex — which were both linked to travel in southern Africa.
And Germany and the Czech Republic both confirmed suspected cases today. Germany's initial sequencing suggests a traveler from South Africa was carrying