Call for Northumberland public to be ‘patient’ with science on Omicron

Health bosses for Northumberland have insisted they are in a "completely different place than we were last year" as they brace for what could be another difficult winter, thanks to the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 7:45 pm
The public has been urged to be patient while scientists grapple with a new strain of Covid.

The discovery of the latest Covid-19 strain has set alarm bells ringing worldwide, with rules on face coverings reintroduced in England in a bid to slow its spread.

The news has prompted concerns about the impact it could have on planned Christmas celebrations and the prospect of new lockdowns.

But families in Northumberland and the wider region have been urged to keep faith in “simple” preventative measures, as bosses insist they are more prepared than they were 12 months ago to fight the virus.

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“I think we’re in a completely different place than we were last year,” said Liz Morgan, director of Public Health at Northumberland County Council.

“This time last year the vaccination programme hadn’t really rolled out, so we were seeing infection primarily in the most vulnerable group of individuals, which was older people.

“Now, the vast majority of those people are vaccinated and so, of course, now we’re seeing infections in younger people.

“And of course the testing strategies have changed significantly since then as well, but primarily the changes because of the vaccination programme.”

As well as beefed up rules on face coverings, the government has also announced plans to offer every adult a booster Covid vaccination by the end of January.

Northumberland has consistently been ranked the number one area of England for take up, with 88.9 per cent of those eligible in the county given a first jab, while 82.6 per cent have had a second dose.

And while immunity may be waning for some – hence the need for a third round of vaccinations – experts believe it will take about two weeks to get an idea of whether the Omicron strain will have a major impact as a result of this.

Morgan added: “We just need to be patient and see what the science tells us over the next few weeks – I think we’ll be a lot clearer about what we’re facing in a couple of weeks’ time.”