Yesterday Leeds City Council published the following update regarding the Omicron variant and the announcements that were made by the Government.

“From a local perspective, we continue to monitor the situation closely with the UK Health Security Agency in line with our continued proactive, engaging and tailored approach to local outbreak planning, including liaison with partners in settings where outbreaks will happen eg education, care, prisons, vulnerable accommodation and workplaces.  Shaheen Myers has been in touch with education settings today with an update.

Currently all Covid positive travellers from Southern African red list countries are being classified as a probable Omicron case until sequencing confirms otherwise, therefore we do anticipate probable cases being identified who live in Leeds in the coming days. As mentioned above, we are working closely with UK Health Security Agency and have robust systems are in place to manage this situation should it arise.

Key messages are as follows:

  • Take the vaccination when you are eligible, this remains the primary line of defence
  • Wear a mask when indoors in enclosed spaces, and especially where it is mandatory on transport, in shops, and in communal areas in high schools and FE/HE
  • Ventilate when indoors where possible
  • Take a lateral flow test in advance of mixing indoors and undertake risk assessments for large gatherings
  • Isolate and get a test if you have symptoms
  • Follow NHS guidance for isolating in relation to international travel
  • Continue to wash hands and sanitise surfaces

The national position is that there are three cases of the Omicron variant identified in England, with the following announcements over the weekend:

  • Starting immediately, all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
  • From 4.00 am Tuesday 30 November, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and on public transport, unless individuals are exempt from doing so. Government guidance isn’t yet updated on this, but will be soon.
  • From 4.00 am Tuesday 30 November, travellers arriving into the UK will be required to take a PCR test on or before day two and self-isolate until they have received a negative result. These tests are through private providers and not available through the NHS.  In addition, any suspected or confirmed close contacts of the Omicron variant will be asked to isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status or age. The people concerned will be contacted directly and told to isolate, here is the current guidance on contact tracing and isolation
  • Education settings – above year 7 – are now advised that face coverings should be worn in communal areas by staff, visitors and pupils or students, unless they are exempt. And all educational and childcare settings should continue to encourage staff and students to test twice weekly using lateral flow device (LFD) tests.
  • These measures are precautionary and will be reviewed in three weeks

Further announcements have been made today and we will update the local implications of these later in the week:

  • The number of mutations on Omicron does give cause for concern.
  • There is an increased growth rate associated with it – but that is not the same as saying an increase in transmissibility.
  • Government don’t want to people to panic.
  • It is likely there will be an impact on the effectiveness of vaccines, but the biggest effect is likely to be in preventing infections – hopefully there will be a smaller effect in preventing disease.
  • Covid booster jabs should be offered to all over 18s to help stop a potential wave driven by the new variant Omicron, with the gap between second dose and booster should also be reduced to three months (down from the six-month gap).
  • Children aged 12 to 15 should also be invited for a second dose three months after their first.
  • The rollout of the booster programme should be prioritised so people are offered in order of vulnerability.

For the latest updates on the new variant, visit: www.gov.uk