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Scientist SAYS too late to stop spread of omIcron as daily outbreak grows by more than 50% in TH UK

The number of new Omicron cases reported in the UK has risen by 86 bringing the total cases to 246 - an increase of more than 50 per cent in the space of a day.

The UK Health Security Agency, who publish the figures, said 18 of the new cases are in Scotland taking their total to 48.

The remaining 68 cases were recorded in England, according to the UKHSA.

Meanwhile, a further 43,992 Covid cases were recorded in the UK this week, an increase of 6,311 on last week's figures.

The increase marks a 16.7 per cent rise since last Sunday while a further 54 deaths were recorded.

The number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid rose by 5.8 per cent from 51 last week.

In South Africa the Omicron explosion of cases continued, with 11,125 new infections recorded, down on the 16,000+ numbers of recent days due to a weekend lag in reporting but still up 289% compared with last Sunday.

It comes as a leading scientist warned Britain has left it 'too late' to halt the spread of the Omicron super-variant.

Professor Mark Woolhouse said bringing in new curbs on travel was 'a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted'.

The Edinburgh University epidemiologist said it was 'spreading pretty rapidly' and could become the world's dominant strain.

On Saturday, it was announced all travellers arriving in England will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test from Tuesday.

Ministers said the test was intended to be a temporary measure following new data showing an increase in the number of cases of the new strain linked to foreign travel.

Meanwhile Nigeria is being added to the Government's travel red list in a blow for those wanting to see family over the festive period.

It comes as the US also battles its own war against the new variant, with a breakout linked to a New York City anime convention last month.

A Minnesota man who tested positive for Omicron after travelling to the city said more than a dozen of his friends who also attended contracted the virus.

Professor Woolhouse, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling