* UK wants to broaden booster campaign
* New measures are temporary
* Scotland also to introduce travel measures
LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Britain's health minister Sajid
Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on
whether the government can broaden a booster shot programme to
try to weaken the impact of the newly identified Omicron
A day after Britain said it had detected two cases of the
variant, its health agency recorded a third - in a person who
was linked to travel to Southern Africa but had since left the
country after spending time in the capital London.
The government announced new measures on Saturday to try to
slow the spread of the variant, toughening rules for people
arriving into Britain and ordering the use of masks in retail
settings and on transport in England. Some schoolchildren will
also be required to wear face coverings in communal areas.
But ministers also want to ramp up the offer of booster
jabs, saying even if vaccines prove to be less effective against
Omicron, they should offer better protection against it and
reduce the number of hospitalisations and deaths.
"The other thing that still remains hugely important, but I
think it's fair to say now more important than it was before, is
our vaccination programme," Javid told Sky News.
"That is why I have also asked our expert advisers on
vaccines called JCVI (the Joint Committee on Vaccination and
Immunisation) to give me very quick advice on broadening,
boosting our booster programme, and I expect to get that advice
Earlier this month, Britain expanded eligibility for booster
jabs to people in their 40s and also said children aged 16 and
17 would be able to receive a second dose following guidance
from the JCVI.
Scotland, where the government sets its own health rules,
already requires people to wear face coverings and work from
home if possible. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC's
Andrew Marr show she would also bring in new rules for arrivals.
"I think we need to be open minded to doing anything
required to keep the population safe right now," she said.
The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a "variant of concern" last
week by the World Health Organization, has caused worry around
the world https://www.reuters.com/world/new-coronavirus-variant-omicron-keeps-spreading-australia-detects-cases-2021-11-28
that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly
two-year COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost 145,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Britain,
with Johnson's government criticised for moving too slowly in
the early days of the pandemic. Since then, the government has
tried to react quickly to the appearance of new variants.
Javid said the new measures were needed to buy time for
experts to understand more about Omicron, which is likely to
have spread in Britain beyond the three cases so far detected.
Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK's Health Security
Agency, said: "It is very likely that we will find more cases
over the coming days."
Paul Burton, chief medical officer at Moderna, said
that if a new vaccine was needed, "I think that's going to be
early 2022 before thats really going to be available in large
Javid said it was not as yet clear whether vaccines were
less effective against the variant.
"The point is the vaccines are still going to give you more
protection than otherwise," he said. "That is why the booster
programme is so important."
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Louise Heavens, Mark
Heinrich, Raissa Kasolowsky and Catherine Evans)