SOME people thought it was all over - but it most certainly isn't.

It seems some of us had been lulled into a false sense of near normality, only for the virus to play its latest dirty trick on us.

Just as we naively believed things were getting back to how they were pre-pandemic, Covid turned on us again.

News came out of South Africa late last week of a new variant, initially known only as B.1.1.529.

It's since been named Omicron and has been designated a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization.

There have been other variants of this coronavirus, but this fellow appears to have the potential to be the nastiest so far.

That's because Omicron has several mutations that may impact on how it behaves.

The jury is out on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it can cause.

It was only a matter of time before Omicron turned up in Europe and this country - and sure enough it's out of its box, with several cases already identified in England and Scotland and more on The Continent.

The Government has introduced some "temporary and precautionary measures" to try to stop it in its tracks.

Despite that, or because of it, the message seems to be 'Don't panic', follow the rules and do everything in our power to stop Scrooge Omicron mucking up our Christmas.

So, what are we being told to do to keep the latest variant of the virus at bay?

From Tuesday, face coverings became mandatory in shops, on public transport and some other settings in England.

Secondary school pupils are being “strongly advised” to mask up in communal areas.

All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Arrivals to the UK must take a PCR test within 48 hours of entering the country and need to self isolate until they receive a negative result.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks, when we will learn whether Santa has to wear a face covering when he shoots down our chimneys. And will Rudolph have to cover his red nose?

Other European countries have brought in much stricter regulations.

Austria and Slovakia, which are experiencing the largest and second largest Covid outbreaks worldwide relative to population, have gone into full lockdown. Austria is even bringing in compulsory vaccination.

Elsewhere, some countries have introduced tough restrictions that haven't gone down well, with rioters taking out their frustrations on the police, shops and cars.

Scientists in this country are confident we should be able to survive less scathed than other countries due to the previous pattern of higher infections over here and the relatively high percentage of the population who are vaccinated.

And the Government is in a desperate race to get as many people as possible jabbed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised vaccination centres are going to be "popping up like Christmas trees" and the Army is being called in to help put jabs in arms.

The jab programme is being sped up in a race against time.

According to the WHO, the preliminary evidence suggests Omicron carries a higher risk of reinfection, although it is not clear how transmissible it is or if it can evade vaccine protection.

Despite the new variant and rules, health secretary Sajid Javid said families can plan for Christmas “as normal” and said it was “nowhere near” time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work from home guidance.

Scientists are set to expand the Covid-19 booster vaccine programme to people under the age of 40 and to reduce the period between second and third doses.

As of yesterday, there had have been no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Somerset or the wider South West.

Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by our uninvited Omicron guest turning up as coronaviruses have a habit of mutating.

We're being told not to panic, but some people have as much faith in the PM as Captain Mainwearing invested in Cpl Jones in Dad's Army.

Restaurants across the country are spending much of their time fielding phone calls from people cancelling parties and meals they had booked in the hope of enjoying some much-needed festive cheer.

Who knows what Omicron holds over the coming days and weeks? That is likely to become much clearer in the next fortnight or so.

Of course we've all been looking forward to a bit of a shindig this month, especially after all the pain and disruption of the past almost two years.

As things stand, there seems to be no reason at the moment why we can't let our hair down as Christmas approaches.

The important thing though is to not let our guard down.