Wirral’s Director of Public Health Julie Webster issues advice on what the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 Variant of Concern (VOC) means for local people.
- This is an emerging situation, there has now been a case identified in the Liverpool City Region.
- Although no cases have yet been identified in Wirral, it is best to remain cautious and we should work together to ensure that the impact of the COIVD-19 virus can be minimised as much as possible.
- The most important thing is that people continue to do many of the things they’ve already been doing.
- Get both doses of the vaccine (regardless of prior infection). Get a booster shot. Wear a mask. Get tested. Ventilate spaces. Self-isolate when required.
For the latest guidance, go to www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Wirral’s Director of Public Health Julie Webster issued the following statement:
With each day, we are learning more about Omicron, which has been described as a Variant of Concern (VOC) by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is currently a Variant Under Investigation by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Although currently there are no reported cases of the variant in Wirral, we now know of a confirmed case in Liverpool.
Early indications suggest that it is highly transmissible, and that means we may see an increase in cases of COVID-19, as well as an increase in hospitalisations.
However, we must wait until we learn more over the coming weeks before we can be sure of the impact of the new variant. There is no evidence yet that it causes more serious illness.
In the run-up to the festive season, I understand that this is incredibly unwelcome and frustrating news.
I know that we all want to see fewer restrictions, not more, and as Wirral’s Director of Public Health, I am also desperate to see a return to normal.
However, it is my duty to respond to situations as they arise and provide you with the advice that will help keep you, your community, and your loved ones safe, as well as protect our local NHS.
There are many reasons to remain positive and hopeful; as time has gone on, we know more and more about this virus and have had time to prepare for situations like this.
We also have the hugely successful COVID-19 vaccination programme, without which we would most likely be looking at much stronger restrictions and perhaps even a lockdown.
To avoid a situation where infection rates overwhelm vital services, we must work together and continue to practice safe behaviours and actions.
We are reminding those living and working in Wirral to:
- Join the 46 million people in the UK who are fully vaccinated – if you haven’t had the time, I urge you to now do so. COVID-19 vaccinations are both safe and effective and are the best way to keep yourself from getting seriously ill
- Get a booster shot once you’re invited. The vaccination booster programme has been extended to all adults who had their second jab three months ago. The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines drop over time, so it’s very important to get a ‘top-up’ to protect you and your loved ones.
- Wear a face covering – it is now a legal requirement to wear face coverings in shops, and on public transport. I urge you to consider wearing one in other crowded spaces, too. A global study found that wearing face coverings was linked to a 53% drop in cases, so we know they work.
- Keep washing your hands and use hand sanitising gel when out and about
- Fresh air can make a big difference in stopping the spread. Meet outdoors if you can, or open windows, doors, and vents if inside. I know it’s cold, but opening a window for even 10 minutes can help.
- Keep getting tested:
- If you develop COVID-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, high temperature, loss or change in taste or smell), self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test. You should self-isolate at home while you get a PCR test and wait for the results. You must self-isolate if you test positive. You must self-isolate from the day your symptoms started and the next 10 full days, or from the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms and the next 10 full days. This is the law, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated.
- Take tests if you do not have symptoms to help manage your risk. Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms. This means they could be spreading the virus without knowing it. Testing regularly increases the chances of detecting COVID-19 when you are infectious but are not displaying symptoms, helping to make sure you do not spread COVID-19 by staying at home and self-isolating immediately. Rapid lateral flow testing continues to be available free of charge. You can get tests from pharmacies or online.
- Self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace or local authority public health teams and minimise your contact with others if you know you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. If you are self-isolating, there is support available to you during this period from national and local government.
- Get tested before meeting up with others and don’t go if your test is positive
We are also urging businesses and workplaces in Wirral to support your workforce resilience by supporting staff to have regular testing and give time to allow them to take up their vaccination offer.
I am extremely thankful to you all for doing your bit to Keep Wirral Well. We are now 20 months into this pandemic, and every day we are blown away by the resilience, kindness, and commitment we see from our local communities.
Thank you – so much – for your continued support and for helping us keep local communities safe.
Your efforts are recognised, and we are confident that together, we will see each other through what may be a difficult winter.