BRADFORD schools, businesses and the public are gearing up for a tumultuous few weeks after the arrival of a new Covid-19 variant on British shores.

The Government was forced to act over the weekend following the news that there were two recorded cases in the UK of the Omicron variant of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a news conference on Saturday evening and issued new rules and advice to try curb the spread of the new variant, which he said does appear to spread "very rapidly".

It will now be mandatory to wear a face covering in shops and on public transport from today, with officials also advising secondary schools to encourage the same rules within corridors and outside classrooms.

There have now reportedly been 11 recorded cases of the Omicron variant in the country so far, with six confirmed in Scotland earlier on Monday and two in London in the afternoon.

At the time of writing, there were no cases reported in the Bradford district.

Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health for Bradford Council, said: “Any virus can develop different strains over time and it is not unexpected that a new variant has been discovered.

"So far, we are not aware of any cases in the district and are waiting to find out more details on any further measures that we might need to take.

“The best way of protecting yourself and your family is to make sure you have had all your Covid vaccinations as soon as you are able to have them.

"That includes the third booster vaccination.

“We all need to continue to take basic precautions to reduce the chances of Covid infections by washing our hands regularly, wearing a face covering in enclosed or crowded areas and making sure rooms are ventilated.”

The third booster vaccination has been opened up to all people aged 18 and over, as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Early evidence suggests that higher antibody levels may protect better against the variant and so The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising those aged 18 to 39 should get the booster dose.

Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.

In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

The reintroduction of mandatory rules for face coverings in shops and on public transport has caused widespread debate.

Many have welcomed the move, but others have questioned the Government's decision - whether because they feel it doesn't go far enough - stating it should be expanded to bars and restaurants - or because they think we should "learn to live" with the virus.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ilkley, Indp) said she has continued to wear a mask in shops anyway and added it is "good manners" and "little to ask".

Meanwhile, Ann-Marie Duxbury agrees the return of mandatory masks in certain locations is a welcome one.

She said: "As someone working in food retail, I'll be glad to see the return of masks.

"Even though we have signs advising people with cough and cold symptoms not to enter store, they still do.

"It's not about you not catching it, it's about you not spreading it.

"Please spare a thought and wear your mask."

But Joanne Skelton criticised the Government's move.

He said: "So much for an irreversible roadmap and after all of the Government's broken promises and U-turns, a lot of people are angry and frustrated, me included.

"We need to learn to live with this now, not keeping enforcing restrictions or measures."

One prominent Bradford location that will be majorly affected by the new rules is The Broadway, Bradford.

But General Manager, Ian Ward, is all too happy to comply.

He said: “The Broadway will continue to adhere to government guidance to ensure that the health and safety of its staff and customers is maintained to the highest level possible.

"The current guidance announced on November 27 states that face coverings will become mandatory in shops from November 30.

“We will be reinstating relevant signage at all entrances and Bradford Council representatives will be at entrances offering free face masks.

 “The Broadway team has worked hard alongside our retailers to create a welcoming environment that is safe for customers.

"We’ve been really pleased and grateful that the vast majority of customers who visit the Centre respect the protocols in place for their own, and other people’s safety.”

The word from the Government in secondary schools is guidance rather than mandatory rules when it comes to face coverings.

Ian Murch, president of the National Education Union in Bradford, feels the Government is not targeting the right area.

He said: “It’s a slight improvement, what they’re suggesting, but it still not suggesting wearing them in classrooms

“There’s 30 people in a room together for an hour and that’s absolutely ideal spreading conditions and that’s why secondary had the most cases in the last few months.”

“I’m particularly concerned in Bradford, after the lull over half term, cases in school age children has gone up again and risen above what they were before half term.”

While the Government has stopped schools from breaking up for Christmas early and warned parents about taking their kids out before the term is officially finished, Mr Murch wants the situation to be reviewed, given much is still unknown about the impact of the Omicron variant.

He said: “We’ll have to wait and see because obviously the new variant could potentially change everything, but we don’t know exactly how.

“But I certainly want them to review in a week’s time and see about closing early then.”