Omicron may have ‘severe consequences’ in some places – will a Christmas lockdown happen?

Christmas lockdown: Ranvir Singh discusses possibility

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Since then, the UK has had one of the fastest vaccination programmes. Almost the entire population has had its first dose and 68.9 percent of the population are fully vaccinated.
However, the Covid Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa less than a week ago is threatening to derail the good work done by the vaccine; that is now being offered as a booster. Since the Omicron variant was discovered and categorised a variant of concern, scientists have been trying to understand how transmissible it is and whether it can evade some of the protection conferred by vaccines

The early evidence suggests that Omicron is more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and causes different symptoms to previous variants such as intense fatigue and a high heart rate.

Of those two the main issue is the virus’ transmissibility; how infectious it is.
The more infectious a virus is, the quicker it can spread and the more people that can become ill who could potentially find themselves in hospital, putting more pressure on the NHS.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a high risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places.

Despite these worries, according to Psychotherapist Noel McDermott it is, “extremely unlikely” that the Omicron variant could ruin Christmas plans, “as early indication shows that it is behaving like all viruses have ever behaved by becoming more infectious, but less lethal”.

However, this still leaves some questions unanswered, such as how, if we do have a Christmas that we make it a safe Christmas, not just for us, but for closest family members?

On this Mr McDermott suggests that families should work from home if they can, to reduce their exposure and, “look at adding lateral flow tests into [their] routine”.

Alongside this, Mr McDermott suggests that to be extra safe we should, “Reduce contact with large numbers of strangers not wearing masks indoors”.

Whilst the idea of these public health measures may not be an easy thought to swallow for some, particularly after several months of no restrictions at all since July, the good thing is that there are a lot of small ways we can individually make a difference in the build up to Christmas.

Examples of this include:
• Wearing a face covering in crowded spaces.
• Working from home if possible
• Social distancing
• Washing hands thoroughly or using anti-viral hand sanitiser
• Weekly lateral flow tests to keep our friends and family safe

The WHO has said that, “further research [is] needed to assess Omicron’s potential to resist vaccines and immunity induced by previous infections”. It went on to say that nations should use a, “risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures”.

In common with other organisations, the WHO stressed that there was still, “considerable uncertainties in the magnitude of immune escape potential of Omicron”.

This means there is not yet enough data to be able to ascertain whether Omicron is a big enough threat to overrun the current range of vaccines or whether it’s increased transmissibility will cause other nations to lockdown.

What the Omicron variant has done is cause nations to implement travel bans in order to protect themselves from the virus entering its borders. Countries such as Japan and Israel for example have closed their borders to all foreigners.

In response to the Omicron Variant, the government has brought back some public health measures.

From today (Tuesday 30th) this includes the mandatory wearing of masks and face coverings in shops and on public transport.

Furthermore, travellers returning to the UK from overseas will also have to take a mandatory PCR test and self-isolate for ten days if they test positive, regardless of their vaccination status.

The government is also expanding its booster programme to include all adults under the age of 40 and the minimum gap between getting your second dose and your booster is to be reduced from six months to three.

With the expansion of the booster programme, it is hoped that this, alongside the reintroduction of other public health measures, will help to stem the threat posed by Omicron.

As we approach December and the festive period the nation and the scientists who guide our Covid response will be hoping that this Christmas won’t turn out to be a repeat of, ‘last Christmas’.

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