Cambridgeshire person confirmed to have Omicron new variant of Covid-19
Health officials are offering 'support and guidance' to a Cambridgeshire person found to have the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Jyoti Atri, Cambridgeshire’s director of public health, said: “We are working closely with UKHSA to identify any close contacts of the confirmed case who has recently returned to the UK from an area where Omicron is circulating.
"We are providing support and advice to make sure that they are self-isolating appropriately while their PCR tests are carried out.
“Omicron is a variant that we are concerned about as we need to understand how much protection the current vaccines offer against this variant, if it is more transmissible or has a worse effect on people than the current variants. Scientists are currently studying the virus and we will know more in the coming weeks.
“Protective measures - such as compulsory face coverings in public indoor spaces such as shops and public transport, and new regulations for people returning from abroad - are being put in place to buy time, while we learn more about this variant and while the booster vaccination programme is extended.
“So please make sure that that you observe these measures, and if you haven’t done so already, you have had your initial two vaccinations. Please also book your booster as soon as you are eligible, as this remains the best protection for you, people you love and the wider community.
“ Www.thevacinators.co.uk has all the available venues and times across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and is being regularly updated with new sites and times as they become available.”
Councillor Richard Howitt, chair of the county’s adults and health committee, said: “We had already moved swiftly in Cambridgeshire to protect our residents by getting Government to agree to us becoming an Enhanced Response Area at the beginning of November. So even before news broke about a new variant being identified, we were taking additional protective measures in our schools, and to increase the numbers of those vaccinated.
“The fact that this case has been identified so quickly should give people assurance that local health systems are operating effectively and everything which can be done is being done in the fight against Covid. We understand that the booster programme is being massively extended, and while that is happening I would urge people to be patient and, in particular, polite and understanding with those running the vaccination sites – who are often volunteers.
“The same protections against other variants are the best and only protection for Omicron. Let us all follow the advice to get the vaccinations, wear a face mask, observe social distancing and wash our hands.”
Cases of the Omicron have been detected around the world, since first being identified in South Africa in November and scientists are racing to understand what its genetic mutations mean as they far exceed the number on any previous variant.
It is feared these changes make it more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and more likely to evade the immune protection provided by vaccines or previous infection.
The Omicron variant is driving a new wave of infections in South Africa, with cases rising four-fold in week ending November 30.