The first cases of the Omicron Covid variant may have been indentified in Bolton.
Whilst they have not been laboratory confirmed, the individuals that have tested positive are linked and members of their households are being re-tested and are self-isolating. Contact tracing is underway and all contacts regardless of vaccine status are being followed up and requested to isolate and get tested as necessary.
Dr Helen Lowey, Director of Public Health at Bolton Council said:
“Omicron is a new variant and we have more work to do to understand how easily this can be transmitted, and how well the vaccines work to protect against it.
“In the meantime, it is important that we all play our part to prevent transmission by remaining cautious and taking steps to keep COVID-safe, particularly at a time when our overall coronavirus rates are going up.
“Vaccination is critical to help us strengthen our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second or booster jab without delay. Wear a face covering in all enclosed spaces, including on public transport, shops and crowded places. Isolate immediately and get a PCR test if you have symptoms.
“Use a lateral flow test before socialising, and ideally test twice a week especially if going into workplaces or shopping, meet outdoors if you can as it is safer, and open a window to let in fresh air if you meet indoors. And if you can work from home, please do so.
“I urge everyone to look out for the ‘COVID’s Still Here’ campaign and follow the advice to help keep Bolton safe and to help keep everything open through the winter.”
Meanwhile Nine more cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in England and one in Scotland, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.
It takes the UK total to 32 – 22 in England and 10 in Scotland.
Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: “It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days, as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing.
“That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.”
A World Health Organisation official has said no severe cases of the Omicron variant have been identified so far – although the number of reported infections remains low.
They also said there is no evidence so far to suggest the efficacy of the vaccines has been reduced by Omicron.
Vaccine makers are being told not to develop a new vaccine and to simply make minor adjustments to the current jabs, as is done with flu vaccines every year.
Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, told the news briefing that we should have more information about the transmission of this new variant “within days”.
She added it is possible that Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant, but this remains unclear.
“Remember, Delta is dominant, but the more it has chance to circulate the more it may change,” she said.
She also stressed there is currently no indication that vaccines won’t work against Omicron.
She added that even with a potential reduction in efficacy: “It is still better to have the vaccine because it will save your life”.