It comes as mask wearing became a mandatory requirement in shops and on public transport in England at 4am on Tuesday as part of emergency measures in response to the emergence of the variant.

Dr Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay.

“Being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to, and particularly going and getting those booster jabs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”

She also said that if our “vaccines appear to be effective, but we find that the variant is more highly transmissible, having lowish grade infection, but in very large numbers of the population, (it) could still be a significant impact on our hospitals.

Read More: Omicron variant: Don’t socialise unless necessary, urges Dr Jenny Harries