A ‘LINK’ to the new Covid super-strain Omicron has been detected in an Essex school – which now faces being shut down.
Pupils and staff at Larchwood Primary School in Pilgrims Hatch are urgently being tested for the virus variant amid fears it is spiralling out of control around the UK.
Pupils and staff at Larchwood Primary School are urgently being tested for Covid after a link to the new strain Omicron was detectedCredit: Google
One class at the school has resorted to remote learning while it awaits test results.
Essex County Council said it took the “necessary precautionary action” to prevent the spread of the variant, which is feared to be resistant to vaccines.
Contact tracers identified a link to the known Omicron infection on Saturday.
Further investigation found connections to the KFC on Brentwood High Street and Trinity Church in Pilgrims Hatch.
If testing at the school uncovers further cases of the mutation, it could be put on lockdown or closed entirely.
It follows the discovery of two confirmed cases of the “rapidly spreading” variant on Saturday in Nottingham and Essex.
A third case was identified in London yesterday, and six further infections were declared in Scotland this morning.
A joint statement from Essex Council and Larchwood said: “Following further contact tracing of the known Omicron Covid-19 case in Brentwood, it has been confirmed that there is a link to Larchwood Primary School based in Pilgrims Hatch.
“The UK Health and Security Agency, Department of Health and Social Care, Larchwood Primary School and colleagues from Essex County Council and Brentwood Council have worked together to take necessary precautionary action to prevent the spread.
“This includes making specialist testing available for all pupils and school staff and confirming arrangements for remote learning for one class.
“We appreciate that this is an unsettling time for parents, pupils and the school community but we take the time to remind everyone that this is a precautionary measure.”
While the number of confirmed cases in the UK remains relatively low, health chiefs fear there could already be hundreds.
More than 75 “probable” cases of the mutant variant have been flagged with more than 150 possible others, according to Government sources.
Ministers and scientists are now scrambling to work out how contagious and dangerous Omicron is, as it is feared it spreads more rapidly.
The UK Health Security Agency warned it was “very likely” further Omicron cases will be discovered in the coming days.
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid dismissed calls for a further lockdown.
‘CHRISTMAS AS NORMAL’
He said infections and hospitalisations were “nowhere near” the level required for restrictions beyond those announced by Boris Johnson at Saturday’s surprise press conference.
Mr Javid said the tighter restrictions on the border and masks for Christmas shoppers and commuters are needed to “buy time” to work out how bad the new variant is and whether it blunts the effectiveness of vaccines.
But Mr Javid insisted these restrictions would not spoil festivities and urged Brits to “keep making plans to see family and friends” — just like he is doing.
He said: “I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas. I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”
In a bid to stamp out high-speed transmission, ministers have announced the reintroduction of a string of Covid restrictions.
This includes the return of mandatory mask-wearing in shops and public transport from Tuesday.
Passengers arriving in the UK from Tuesday morning will have to take a PCR test, with the expectation they will self-isolate until they test negative.
All contacts with a suspected case of Omicron will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
NHS Test & Trace workers on Brentwood High Street, EssexCredit: Stephen Huntley/HVC