The new restrictions health experts are demanding in order to stop the spread of Omicron

By Alahna Kindred & Aaron Morris

Five new measures should come into force in order to slow down the rapidly spreading Omicron Covid-19 variant, according to urges made to the UK government by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

In a briefing that took place on Friday, the group have said that these restrictive measures should be implemented until the end of February at least - The Mirror reports.

The measures that SAGE hope to see come into play include the likes of working from home when and where possible, providing CO2 monitors in schools and ensuring adequate ventilation in classrooms, revising the list of currently known Covid symptoms in line with those related to Omicron, requiring the use of freely provided FFP2 grade masks as a minimum in indoor public spaces, and to provide adequate sick pay for those who are unable to work due to the virus.

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The SAGE group consisting of around 30 scientists working together to provide independent pandemic advice to those around the globe have put forward their recommendations as England alone has reported more than three million cases of Coronavirus since December 1.

More than one million of the aforementioned cases were reportedly logged in just the last week alone.

The scientists who work on an independent basis are warning that these 'alarming' figures are 'almost certainly an underestimate', and if more stringent measures were implemented last month, the current NHS crisis have been averted.

As well as this, data from the Office for National Statistics published this week has revealed that an estimated total of 1.3 million UK residents - or two per cent of the population - are experiencing long Covid as of December 6.

Other worrying figures have also recognised that hospitalisations in children under the age of five have trebled since the start of December 2021.

The announcement from the SAGE group comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also confirmed that there will be no further lockdown restrictions introduced, with Plan B measures remaining for at least the next three weeks.

The five measures SAGE want introducing:

1) Working from home when and where possible until the end of February

SAGE agree with the UK Prime Minister that those in England who can work from home are recommended to continue to do so - after Plan B measures came into force on 13 December, 2021.

These measures will be next reviewed on January 26, and SAGE are keen on the idea of keeping the 'work from home' guidance in place after the review takes place - however, it could possibly be scrapped by the end of the month if the PM sees no reason to keep them in place.

Mr Johnson told MPs on Wednesday: "In response to the latest data the cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick with Plan B for another three weeks with a further review before the regulations expire on 26 January."

2) Providing CO2 monitors and ensuring there is adequate ventilation in all school classrooms

It was reported earlier this week that schools are 'teetering on the edge' with more than a third of heads reporting staff absence levels in excess of 10 per cent due to Coronavirus on the first day of term.

A snap survey by the NAHT union found the majority (95 per cent) had pupils absent due to Covid, while nearly a third reported over 10 per cent of children were out of class because of the virus.

In a bid to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in schools, the Department of Education announced plans to deliver 350,00 CO2 monitors to "all state schools".

3) Revising the list of symptoms of Covid-19

The NHS website still lists the main symptoms of Covid as a fever, a new cough and the loss of taste or smell - however new symptoms associated with the Omicron variant have differentiated completely - with many reporting runny noses, headaches, fatigue and a sore throat to name a few symptoms.

Health experts such as Professor Tim Spector - the scientist behind symptom tracker app Zoe - have described signs and symptoms of Omicron as being more similar to that of a common cold than that of a fever.

With outdated symptoms, it means it's much easier to miss a self-diagnosis Omicron - with Prof. Spector warning anyone with cold-like symptoms to take a Covid test to make sure it isn't the virus.

4) Requiring high-quality masks for indoor public spaces

New rules introduced by the UK Government last month require anyone aged 18 or over to wear a face mask or covering when entering a wide range of indoor venues - such as supermarkets, shopping centres and also on public transport.

FFP2 grade masks are considered by many to be highly-effective face coverings - with many countries in Europe requiring these specific masks to be worn in public spaces.

Independent Sage is recommending the UK government follows suit and requires this specific grade of mask for indoor public spaces as well as providing them for free to households.

5) Adequate sick pay for those unwell with Covid-19

From December, 10 sick pay rules were temporarily relaxed to help free up General Practitioners to assist in the booster rollout, meaning workers wouldn't need to see their doctor if they took unwell over the hectic Christmas period.

Under previous rules, workers who were unwell were required to show their employer a valid sick note signed by a GP after seven days to receive statutory sick pay or benefit payments, but this was relaxed to 28 days – meaning you now don't need proof until almost a month after you fall ill.

Anyone in work who goes off sick won't be asked for a doctor's confirmation until after 28 days of sickness, which includes non-working days.

However, this rule is only currently in place until January 27, 2022 - with rules returning to the normal seven day period thereafter.

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