NEW rules for face coverings and COVID-19 safety came into force today (Tuesday).

Concerns over the new Omicron variant of the virus, which has arrived in the UK, has meant restrictions have been tightened to curb the spread of the virus.

Face coverings are compulsory again in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport, while all travellers returning to the UK must take a PCR test on day two and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their age or vaccination status.

Test and Trace will be in touch with those cases.

The measures have been introduced as a precaution while more information is gathered and assessed on the variant's transmissibility and any possible effect on vaccines.

Simon Bryant, the council's director of public health, said the vaccination programme and test, trace and isolate system continued to be the most effective way of reducing transmission, along with practising good hygiene, keeping spaces well ventilated, and wearing masks.

He said: "I encourage everyone to get vaccinated, whether it’s their first or second dose or booster.

“Research has shown the vaccines help reduce the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, as well as reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and protecting against variants.”

Councillor Karl Love, Cabinet member for public health, added: "I can’t emphasise enough the importance of continuing with our COVID safe behaviours, particularly with Christmas on the horizon.

"Wearing a mask, letting in fresh air when you meet at home, hand washing, and social distancing are all going to play a big part this festive season.

“Please take an LFT test before you enjoy a Christmas event or go and mix with people you don’t normally see.

"All these things together will help protect our Island community this winter.

"It's far better to go the extra mile to protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.

"Don’t forget to use for COVID-19 information for the Island."