Ministers announced new control measures to help keep the new variant in check after cases were confirmed in the UK. These include the wearing of face coverings on public transport and in shops.
Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “I’m saddened by the prospect of Covid on the increase especially as we really are entering a key time for most businesses.
"The next four weeks are critical peak trading and on the back of Storm Arwen and loss and damage to that has brought it is more important than ever to support the fabulous local businesses in the town.
“I must confess the thought process behind masks in some areas and not others does feel strange and not at all like joined up thinking but, if it’s what it takes to keep everybody’s doors open and the opportunity to spend time with family and friends at Christmas then we must get behind and support the new rules.”
The Omicron variant, as it has been named by the World Health Organisation, was first identified in South Africa, and has since been found in several countries, including Scotland and England.
Public health directors for the LA7 group of councils, which includes Northumberland, issued a statement as new measures came into force.
It reads: “At present, little is known about the variant but while we learn more about its structure and behaviour, it’s essential we all take decisive action to minimise its potential impact.
“The control measures that we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic are effective at minimising transmission of all strains of the virus.
“Face coverings will be compulsory in shops and on public transport, but we should take extra care to protect ourselves and others. That means keeping a safe distance from others, washing hands regularly, keeping indoor spaces ventilated, getting tested and self-isolating where required."
A change to the guidance issued to schools and a requirement for international arrivals to self-isolate upon entry to the UK are also part of new measures.