CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Race to find contacts of Omicron variant patients

Race to find contacts of Omicron variant patients

03 December, 2021 — By Tom Foot

A FAMILY in Camden is isolating with one of the first recorded infections of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the country in a week that NHS staff were urged not to socialise in big groups in the run up to Christmas.

The three residents, all in the same household, are isolating after being found to have the new Covid-19 variant first discovered in South Africa. Attempts were being made to reach anybody who had come into contact with them in recent days.

Nationally, prime minister Boris Johnson returned to his press briefings this week and said face masks are now mandatory in shops and on public transport. There was another push for Covid vaccine jabs as well, with booster injections being brought forward.

Other Omicron cases this week were recorded in Liverpool, Norfolk, Haringey, Sutton and Westminster.

The council said it was working with experts at the UK Health Security Agency, formerly Public Health England, to track down and test anyone who has been in contact with them.

Council leader Labour councillor Georgia Gould said: “We recognise this may be a worrying time for the community and we are taking action with UKHSA colleagues to identify any contacts and offer them testing.

“It’s more important than ever that everyone follows public health advice –wearing a face covering in shops, on public transport and in crowded areas, test before you meet people. Meeting outside or in well ventilated places can help prevent the spread Covid-19.”

Council leader Georgia Gould

Cllr Gould said she was “concerned” for unvaccinated residents who were not only at “increased risk of becoming seriously unwell” but also of “passing Covid-19 to others”, adding that many Camden residents are still coming forward for their first vaccine.

While doctors have suggested that Omicron symptoms are milder than those caused by the globally-dominant delta variant, it is feared the bug’s ability to transmit more easily will heap further pressure on the already strained health service.

Hospitals and GP surgeries are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the chaos caused by the pandemic before the vaccines were available.

NHS trusts are advising their staff “not to mix in big groups” in the run-up to Christmas, according to Saffron Cordery, from the NHS Providers body.

“They are setting one example there,” she said.

Meanwhile, health chiefs at North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group have sent out a bulletin to all doctors’ practices saying: “Whilst data is still emerging, it seems as though the new variant has increased transmissibility, and with this in mind, we urge all practices to continue with infection prevention policies.”

There was an added reminder that all healthcare workers will need to provide evidence of vaccination “in order to be deployed”.

There are concerns in hospitals about the numbers of unvaccinated staff in hospitals with the most recent statistics showing one in five staff at hospitals serving Camden patients are yet to have the jab. At the Royal Free, health chiefs met last week to discuss what they described as “busiest ever” time at the hospital. The Hampstead hospital’s charity has recently launched a “breaking point”.

Anyone aged 16 or over can book a COVID-19 vaccination at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119. If you’re 16 or over you can go to a walk-in clinic.

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