The news about developments since the emergence of a new variant of Covid 19 to be known as the Omicron Variant has come quick and fast. It is likely as I write this that some data will change if I think it important news, I will do an extra report as I did on Saturday. There is I am sure no hope now of containing this variant in Southern Africa. We now know that 6 cases have emerged in Scotland, three more in England. Canada has found a couple of cases. We have to move to the next step of minimising its impact and slowing its ability to spread. Countries across the world are introducing their plans to do this. It is going to be very complex and likely to change daily. Staying at home is the best bet but if you must travel ensure you have the most up-to date information. Plan for the possibility that you could easily get caught in quarantine or a ban on travel. JVT led a briefing today, involving the heads of the JCVI as well as the UK Regulatory Agency. We were strongly advised not to panic at this stage. In his skilful, solemn way his words were “ Do not panic, but do not ignore the weather forecast either. Particularly poignant as people are still trapped in remote areas, and many are without electricity still after this weekend’s storm in the North and Scotland. Many changes are coming into force. I have no doubt the Government will have a majority but to become mandatory and pass into law a vote in Parliament is necessary. This is said to be planned now for tomorrow. Everyone over the age of 18 is now entitled to a booster, and those very vulnerable through immunosuppression should have a fourth dose. All children between 12 and 15 will now require a second dose. The gap between the second and booster doses is to be cut from 6 months to 3 months. This means many more of you can now have a booster. Please get it booked and arranged as quickly as possible. Your booster should be of the RNA type such as Pfizer or Moderna. Masks will become mandatory in all shops, on public transport and in hairdressers, post offices and banks. You risk a fine of £200 if you refuse without a very good cause. There are very few reasons why masks or other face coverings should not be worn. Generally speaking, if you are well enough to be out and about you should be well enough to wear a mask. Masks will also be required for secondary school children, staff and visitors, as well as university students.
It is interesting to note that so far I have not seen a report of the variant in the USA yet. I am sure it will already be there, it’s probable that the USA is not the fastest country to do genomic sequencing to determine which variant the case is. India has only managed to immunise 32% of the population so when the variant arrives there, we can expect many more cases. The Cardiff Rugby team is quarantined and stranded in South Africa as one of the team has tested positive. If over the next few weeks you are due to attend small functions with other people who are not part of your household it would seem very sensible to get some lateral flow tests and do one before you go. If negative, you cannot take the virus with you so you and the others are safe. This could apply to school nativity shows, if they go ahead, or the office Christmas parties. Japan has followed Israel in closing its borders to all foreigners. Australia has delayed the reopening of its borders. Pressure is coming from both Scotland and Wales for the UK to standardise the arrangements for incoming passengers to the UK. Scotland and Wales require a second negative test on day 8. England has planned to allow people to stop quarantine after the day 2 test is negative. I predict this will happen later in this week. The weekend statistics show each day we have just managed to do over 1 million tests, but we are still seeing 42,000 plus positive cases every day. The positive rate is creeping up still and is now 440 per 100k of the population. There are never any health statistics published over the weekend but the numbers in hospital are slowly coming down. There are around 7,500 in hospital beds and only 925 on a ventilator. These measures will become critical in a couple of week’s time. The unknown is whether the Omicron variant will lead to any more hospital admissions. It usually takes about 2 weeks from catching the virus for a few to need to go into hospital, and a further two weeks if they are going to die. The very early indicators that are that available suggest this may not be as serious as feared, but may be more easily transmissible. We can cope with this. We need all the plan B measures which most of you have tried to follow. As an extra precaution do a lateral flow test if going out to an event, and obviously do not go if positive. If travelling check and check again. Vaccine remains the best protection. If you are over 18 and awaiting a third jab and if its more than 3 months since your second. Book it today. We can all stay safe but as JVT said “Watch the weather forecast “As always your news and views are welcome.