A KFC at the centre of the Omicron outbreak is still open for business after all the staff tested negative for Covid.
A customer tested positive for the Omicron variant shortly after visiting the KFC in Brentwood, Essex, prompting a dash to test people who had been at the restaurant between 1pm and 5pm on November 19.
Staff did not know whether the infected customer ate in or got a take away when he visited and all workers were tested.
One team member, who asked not to be named, has now revealed that all staff tested negative for Covid and it is ‘business as usual’ at the KFC branch.
Anyone who visited the KFC outlet on Brentwood High Street (pictured) between 1pm and 5pm on November 19 has been told to get tested
Essex County Council confirmed that contract tracers were focusing on individuals who attended Brentwood High Street’s KFC restaurant and Trinity Church and Larchwood Primary School in Pilgrim’s Hatch
As well as the KFC, anyone who visited Trinity Church in Pilgrim’s Hatch on November 21 has also been targeted by contact tracers.
Pupils and staff at Larchwood Primary School are also being looked at after someone connected with the man visited.
One class has switched to remote learning after a link to the ‘rapidly spreading’ variant.
The Brentwood KFC staff member, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The gentleman who had the new variant was a customer.
‘We don’t know if he ate in or got a takeaway, because there were a lot of transactions that day.
‘Then he went for a test because the Covid guys came and told us.
‘All our staff are fine and it’s business as usual here, as you can see.
‘They’ve all been tested and it’s comeback negative.
‘We sanitise everything regularly throughout the day and are taking all the necessary precautions.’
While the KFC remains open, only a few tables were full yesterday afternoon and businesses in the area say the high street is already looking a lot quieter.
Thomas Bristow, 30, who runs Tides Homes & Garden next door to KFC, said: ‘It’s a major worry for us and for the public who come out shopping.
‘Even with the news yesterday, the high street is looking really quiet. It’s normally busy everyday of the week here.
Trinity Church in Pilgrim’s Hatch (pictured) said they were working with NHS Test & Trace to support their efforts in regards to this new variant
Pupils and staff at Larchwood Primary School are also being tested for the new Covid-19 strain and one class has switched to remote learning
‘Masks and social distancing are acceptable precautions, but any more than that is just going to put businesses in the ground.
‘I don’t think many businesses will be making profits this year, they’ll just clawing back the losses.’
The case has been linked to another confirmed case in Nottingham, which has been traced back to South Africa where the variant is believed to have originated from.
A Mobile Testing Unit was deployed to the KFC branch to drop off test kits to staff and individuals who attended the Church or KFC are being urged to attend the two sites set up in Brentwood for testing.
In a joint statement Essex County Council and Larchwood Primary School said: ‘Following further contact tracing of the known Omicron Covid-19 case in Brentwood, it has been confirmed that there is a link to Larchwood Primary School based in Pilgrims Hatch.
‘The UK Health and Security Agency, Department of Health and Social Care, Larchwood Primary School and colleagues from Essex County Council and Brentwood Council have worked together to take necessary precautionary action to prevent the spread.
‘This includes making specialist testing available for all pupils and school staff and confirming arrangements for remote learning for one class.
‘We appreciate that this is an unsettling time for parents, pupils and the school community but we take the time to remind everyone that this is a precautionary measure.’
In a statement, Trinity Church said: ‘Since the news emerged of a person in Brentwood testing positive for the new variant of Covid, we have been working with NHS Test & Trace within the past 24 hours to support their efforts in regards to this new variant.
‘Whilst the person identified did not actually attend Trinity on November 21st, someone connected with them did attend and so we have encouraged all members to follow NHS Test & Trace requests and be tested at the identified testing sites.
‘Trinity has been fully supportive throughout the pandemic of efforts to protect the community with our onsite procedures and continuing to provide online services for the vulnerable.
‘We will continue to support efforts to combat the spread of this new variant where required.’
While little is known about the Omicron variant, health experts fear it could be more contagious and resistant than other strains.
A spokesperson for KFC said: ‘All team members at the restaurant have volunteered to take a PCR test as part of the targeted testing.
‘Operating responsibly remains our top priority, so we continue to follow all necessary guidance to maintain a safe, clean environment for our guests and teams.’
Dr Mike Gogarty, the director of public health for Essex County Council, urged residents to work from home if they could in an an effort to ‘prevent this thing getting a grip and starting to spread this side of Christmas.’
He told Heart News East: ‘I would say if you can work from home work from home. There’s no point going to work if you don’t have to go to work.
‘Every little bit will reduce the levels of spread that we have. I just think it’s really important that we do all we can now to prevent this thing getting a grip and starting to spread this side of Christmas.’
The scientist went on to say that they had ‘one absolutely confirmed case’ of the Omicron variant in the Brentwood area and the person was now isolating with their family.
He continued: ‘We’ve had one absolutely confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the Brentwood area.
‘The person is isolating with their family and they have been isolating since they had symptoms.
‘Although they are unwell I am pleased to say they are not seriously unwell and everyone is hoping that they will make a full recovery – I think that will be the case.
Health Minister Gillian Keegan today insisted it is better for the UK to ‘overreact than underreact’ to the new Omicron coronavirus varian
Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won’t be ready until mid-2022
The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body’s immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body’s cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness
‘Following discussions with them we identified three areas where we think we need to really step up contact tracing and testing and they are the KFC in Brentwood High Street, there’s a faith group setting and the people who belong to that faith group are being advised to go for testing and there’s a primary school involved as well where we they are testing all the children in the school.
‘They are going to be taking home all the tests today. There is one class in the school which we feel are particularly close contacts and we’ve asked that group to self-isolate as a precaution for ten days and we’ve asked then to get tested as well.’
He added: ‘The difficulties are the unknowns and people are always worried about the unknown so I think at the moment is the time to be really cautious, to keep those masks on, to absolutely get the booster – that’s the most important thing you can do. Get the booster when you are invited.
‘Also think about social distancing differently, stay two metres away, don’t shake hands. So it’s those measures that are important.
‘I think in two or three weeks we will be much more clear about the real issues and the real issues are first of all does this thing make you really ill. If it does make you really ill it’s worrying, if it doesn’t make you very ill then it’s probably less of an issue.
‘Also equally important does the vaccine work with it because if it does make you ill we want the vaccine to work.’
The new head of NHS Test and Trace today warned Britons not to socialise before Christmas ‘unless you need to’ because of concerns surrounding the new supermutant Omicron.
The Government’s new rules on face masks and self-isolation to slow the spread of the variant came into effect in England from 4am this morning.
Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport while all travellers returning to the UK must now take a PCR test on or before day two after their arrival. They can leave isolation once they have a negative test result.
All close contacts of Omicron cases must isolate at home for ten days regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, prompting fears of another ‘pingdemic’.
The number of Omicron cases identified in the UK has now hit 14 after Scotland announced three more this morning, bringing its total to nine, while England has discovered five.
Britain yesterday expanded its current booster rollout for all adults over 18. Even though the vaccines are expected to be much weaker against Omicron, it is hoped that topping up everyone’s immunity to very high levels will offer an extra line of defence against the incoming wave.