Targeted measures to prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant are now in place and Ben Anderson, Director of Public Health in Rotherham is sharing his advice on what we can all do through the winter.
- Face coverings are compulsory in shops and settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so. All hospitality settings are exempt.
- All international arrivals must take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. The PCR tests are available online from private providers.
- All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their age or vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant. Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defence, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted. Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.”
The measures are temporary and precautionary, and will be reviewed in three weeks. The regulations will be kept under review to ensure they only remain necessary and proportionate.
The weekly COVID-19 case rates in Rotherham have dropped below the national average for the first time since July but the borough has seen very high Covid case rates since the return of schools and is going into winter with very high levels. The Rotherham rate is 400.4 per 100,000 which is below the national average of 428.6 per 100,000.
Ben Anderson, Director of Public Health in Rotherham, said: “Although overall the case rate’s going up and down we are seeing a consistent rising case rate at the moment in those patients who are over 60 and that’s the biggest concern and that they’re most vulnerable to needing hospital unfortunately to deaths.
“What we are seeing with the over 60s is a waning of their immunity from their original vaccination programme and now the majority of this population of more than six months on from the second vaccine dose we really do need to encourage people to take up that booster dose and get that third dose in as soon as possible as we go into winter.
“The most important thing for everyone is to take up the vaccine. We know that a fully vaccinated person has a
thirty fold reduction in the risk of death than someone who’s unvaccinated and an even greater reduction in the risk of needing hospitalisation or having severe illness. Vaccines are now available everyone aged 12 and above.
“Other actions we can take include continuing to be careful about how we mix socially, continuing to wear face coverings when we’re in public places and making sure that when we are meeting up and gathering we ventilate the space we are in or meet outside where possible.
“Through this winter we know that demand on the NHS is going to be significant and so it’s also important and we think how we plan for our own health and how we contact health services as we go through winter. So firstly, making sure that we are taking any medications we need to and getting regular checks is important, and having stocks of those medicines in through the winter is important.
“Anyone who does need health services are thinking first, is this something that the pharmacy can deal with, does this need to go to the GP, or is it something that can be dealt with through the 111 NHS direct service. If you do need to go to hospital just be aware hospitals are very pressured at the moment and there will be some wait.”
Images: UK Health Security Agency