New Delhi, November 27:

Britain has confirmed its first two cases of the omicron variant of Coronavirus, considered more contagious and resistant to the vaccines. Both the cases infected with the new strain have travel links to southern Africa, reported news agencies on Saturday.

“We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing,” news agency AFP quoted Britain’s health secretary Sajid Javid as saying in a statement.

While one case of the omicron variant has been detected in the southeastern English town of Chelmsford, another has come to light from the central city of Nottingham, Javid confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, will hold a news conference later on Saturday “to set out further measures”, Javid said.

The British government has placed another four African countries on its travel ‘red list’, including Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola. Earlier, the country banned travel from six southern African nations: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

‘Omicron’, first detected in Botswana in southern Africa on November 9, has since been reported in a number of countries, including Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. The variant is known to be highly contagious and has a number of mutations.

Many countries have slapped restrictions on various African countries over the past couple of days including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissibility of the new variant — against the advice of the World Health Organization.

Pharmaceutical companies expressed optimism that they could finesse their vaccines to deal with the new variant though that would clearly take some time.