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UK reports 39,567 more COVID-19 cases, 131 deaths

The UK recorded 39,567 Covid cases and 131 deaths on Saturday, according to the latest daily figures.

It is lower than Friday’s total of 50,091 but higher than last Saturday’s tally of 34,539.

The rise in cases brings the total to 10,110,408 since the beginning of the pandemic, while 144,724 deaths have been reported.

Elsewhere, a further 351,195 third doses were given out on Friday, bringing the total to 17,130,851.

And 23,149 second doses were given out, meaning that 46,278,230 Britons are now fully vaccinated against the disease.

The figures come as the first two cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the UK on Friday.

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 new B.1.1.529 variant, first detected in Botswana, has sparked alarm among scientists due to its high number of mutations. Senior scientists have said it is the worst strain they have seen so far during the pandemic.

In a bid to contain the spread of the variant, ministers announced that Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will face travel restrictions from Sunday.

“We were concerned from the moment we first identified this new variant,” health secretary Sajid Javid told reporters on Saturday.

“It’s a deeply concerning new variant and we do need to learn more about it but the fact that we now have these two cases in the United Kingdom does mean we need to take further measures and that’s why I’ve set this out today.”

Mr Javid did not say whether further restrictions could be added in the weeks before Christmas in light of the presence of the new strain, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated a “variant of concern”.

Instead, he said: “We’ve made a lot of progress, we all want to see that protected and if anyone’s sitting at home thinking what can I do? Get vaccinated.”