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Full meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council cancelled today over Omicron fears

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Fears about the possible effect of rising numbers of the new covid variant Omicron on members, staff and residents have led to the cancellation of today’s (Tuesday) full meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council.

The meeting was due to take place at Burgess Hall in St Ives to allow as much social distancing as possible between the 61 elected members, members of the public and officers of the council running the meeting.

However, it was called off last night by Fiona McMillan, the council’s monitoring officer in consultation with Councillor Sebastian Kindersley, vice-chair of council following the advice from Jyoti Atri, the area’s director of public health.

Jyoti Atri director of public health at Cambridgeshire County Council (53704225)
Jyoti Atri director of public health at Cambridgeshire County Council (53704225)

“Omicron numbers are increasing rapidly nationally, with an estimated doubling time of two to three days. A number of Omicron cases have been detected locally and we are seeing outbreaks in a number of settings. We know that for every case detected, there are many more in the community," said Ms Atri.

“Emerging research, that was made public yesterday (Monday), as well as the national briefings I attended during yesterday afternoon, were indicating that two doses of vaccine do not offer sufficient protection. Having considered this further in the light of that research and those briefings, I am concerned that large numbers of people will be meeting together for full council and that the meeting will include people who are vulnerable to poor Covid outcomes and may not yet have had their boosters.

“If the meeting is unable to proceed with fewer numbers, then consideration should be given to cancelling the meeting and conducting essential business through other means.”

Full meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council has been cancelled today over Omicron fears
Full meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council has been cancelled today over Omicron fears

Coun Kindersley said:“Having taken advice from our monitoring officer following advice from the director of public health, we considered whether we could go ahead with a reduced number of Members present – just enough to make us legally ‘quorate’ as has been done in neighbouring counties. But as we couldn’t get the necessary agreement, we came to the conclusion that cancelling Full Council was the wisest course of action.

“I know the chairman of the local government association is currently lobbying hard calling for urgent legislation to facilitate councils being able to host remote meetings again in light of the Omicron variant, and I would add my voice to calls for this to happen without delay."

Any time sensitive items on the agenda will be dealt with under chief officer’s delegated powers.

However, Wisbech county Councillor Sam Hoy, who was due to put a motion calling for better mental health provision for young people, including drop-in hubs, questioned the decision.

She said: "We had chosen to hold the meeting in an enormous sports hall, we would all be wearing masks for the duration of the meeting, and we all should have taken lateral flow tests before attending, so I don't understand the need to cancel the meeting.

"It is very disappointing because it means that my proposition will not be discussed now until March, but there is a need for better support for young people's mental health now."

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