Cases of Omicron are doubling every 36 hours in the North-East suggesting worse might be to come over Christmas.
New data, published by the UK Health Security Agency, suggests it’s likely now the region’s dominant strain. Numbers of rising cases are currently the quickest in the country but remain below the national average.
At the time of writing omicron cases account for more than 48 per cent of COVID-19 positives in the region. Government data tells us the North-East has 2,075 confirmed cases of the new variant and 1,645 potential cases.
The area’s health bosses have again urged everybody especially South Asian communities to ensure they have a first, second, and booster dose of the vaccine when eligible. This follows on from news released by the Government death rates among black and Asian groups are higher than those in white people, which is “almost certainly” down to differences in vaccine take-up.
Dr Raghib Ali, the Government’s independent adviser on Covid-19 and ethnicity, said “nearly all” the previous trends have reversed in the third wave.
Infection rates are now highest in white people, having risen between the second and third waves, in areas previous less affected such as the South-West, in the least deprived areas and least densely populated areas.
“This almost certainly reflects the overall immunity based on natural infection, particularly, because London for example has the lowest vaccination rates.”
The good news is those infected with coronavirus can now take two lateral flow tests to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to seven days.
The UK Health Security Agency revealed those infected with the virus can take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period. If proving negative they can come out of quarantine.
They went on to explain individuals who stop self-isolating on day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with others in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and to continue working from home
Analysis has suggested a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had almost the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without testing.
Asian Standard has learned lateral flow device (LFD) tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant as they are for Delta.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new advice should help “reduce the disruption to people’s everyday lives”, As he urged everyone to get the booster jab.
“Following advice from our clinical experts, we are reducing the self-isolation period from 10 days to seven if you test negative on an LFD test for two days running.
“Its vital people keep playing their part by testing regularly and isolating if they test positive.”
UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said anyone with coronavirus symptoms should still get a PCR test as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation, in a video message: “Naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas — and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.”
Meanwhile Sunderland’s Director of Public Health Gerry Taylor told us: “With Covid cases across Sunderland high and rising, it’s more important than ever to follow the guidance in place to avoid giving the virus more chances to spread.
“Although we have yet to see the full impact of the Omicron variant in Sunderland and the North- East, the situation is a fast changing one.
“At this stage it’s not clear whether Omicron is likely to cause more serious illness. But we do know that it’s highly infectious and higher case rates result in more people needing hospital treatment at a time when the NHS is already struggling due to staff sickness. That’s why it’s vital that we all do everything we can to stop the virus from spreading.
“We’re all looking forward to enjoying Christmas and the very last thing we want is Covid getting in the way at this very special time of year.”
Concerns are still growing new more stringent measures could be announced by Boris Johnson before Christmas.