TAMESIDE residents are urged to follow the new COVID-19 measures that have been introduced following the emergence of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Cases in Tameside are still extremely high which is putting greater pressure on our public services, including our healthcare services, which are also going to be facing additional challenges over the Winter period from a range of illnesses and seasonal threats such as cold and challenging weather and impacts. It therefore is vital that everyone plays their part in trying to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Face coverings are now compulsory in shops and on public transport. While they are not mandatory in other settings, their use is still recommended in any enclosed, indoor, crowded spaces.
The latest Government rules also state that all international arrivals must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. And all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days and access a PCR test, regardless of their age or vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace or our local public health team.
With evidence of wearing face coverings remaining strong for reducing transmission of COVID-19, DfE and local public health teams are recommending that face coverings should be worn by secondary pupils in Yr 7 and above, and staff and adult visitors in all educational settings, including primary and nurseries, when moving around school premises. This is a temporary measure which will be regularly reviewed. Pupils in schools should also wear a face covering when travelling on public transport and dedicated transport to and from school.
In Tameside, secondary school pupils and staff and adult visitors in all educational settings had already been asked to wear face coverings in communal areas indoors and while on school premises, and to take regular Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs).
A low number of cases of the Omicron variant have been found in other areas of the UK. There are a number of unknowns about Omicron at present. What we don’t know yet is how transmissible it is (i.e. how fast it will spread), how virulent it is (i.e. how likely it is that it will cause severe illness and hospitalisations), and the level of protection our existing vaccines will provide us with.
Vaccines do remain our best line of defence. COVID-19 booster jabs are now being offered to all over-18s with the gap between second dose and booster reduced to three months from the current six months. Children aged 12 to 15 will be invited for a second dose three months after their first.
All adults who have not yet received their first or second dose, or are eligible for their booster, are encouraged to come forward to help protect themselves and others.
The role of other public health measures is also critical. As well as vaccination, hand and respiratory hygiene, keeping spaces well ventilated, access to regular rapid testing (LFTs), and isolation when symptomatic are all important measures to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Tameside Council Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “It’s important to follow the latest rules and do everything we can to protect ourselves and others and stop the spread of Covid-19 and any variants.
“Early indications show that the Omicron variant could be more transmissible so it’s vital to get vaccinated or get your booster so that you have the maximum protection available, and to enjoy the festive season responsibly.
“The pandemic has been hard for everyone and I thank you all for continuing to support your local community and protect each other. It’s important to remember that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and that we must stick to the measures so that we can continue doing the things we love and have a safe and enjoyable festive season.”
The NHS will shortly set out how staff will expand the booster programme – this will include how booster jabs will be given in priority order so that the most vulnerable people are protected first.
Details of when local Vaccine Hubs are open to drop-in or book or destinations for the Vaccination Bus can be found at www.tameside.gov.uk/covidvaccine.
Lateral Flow Tests can be picked up from local pharmacies, libraries or Active Tameside sites or ordered online at https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests.