Plan B

From today, face masks will be a legal requirement in most indoor public places, slowing the spread of the virus and buying us time as we continue to ramp up our booster programme.

  • The omicron variant is spreading much faster than the previous delta variant - we need to take steps now to help slow the spread of the variant and reduce the chances of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure.
  • That is why from today, wearing face masks will be a legal requirement in most indoor public places, including in theatres, cinemas, places of worship, shops, and museums. There will be exemptions where this is not practical, such as when eating, drinking, or exercising.
  • This – along with other Plan B measures – will help to slow the spread of the virus and buy time to deliver more boosters. Vaccines continue to be our first line of defence and it is vital that everyone gets their booster when called forward.

Earlier this week I was at a Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting. The NHS is under record pressure because of the combination of three things:

  1. The early stages of the usual winter pressures
  2. A relatively small number of people in hospital with the Delta variant of COVID-19 (only eight in North Cumbria, four in each hospital, as at Tuesday)
  3. A large wave of people who are now presenting with non-COVID conditions things they should have come in with over the last eighteen months but were prevented from doing so because of the indirect effects of the pandemic.
The biggest part of this is reason number three. And we need to get these people treated, especially if the illuess is cancer or any of the other conditions which can get worse the longer they are left untreated. But as a result, the volume of work hitting the NHS is at unprecedented levels.

That was before a single case of the Omicron variant had been confirmed in Cumbria. It is clear that Omicron will soon replace Delta as the dominant variant. 

What we don't yet know is what proportion of people who get infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will need hospital treatment. But on the precautionary principle, we  cannot afford to sit back and just hope that the proportion will be lower than with the delta variant. We need to take measures to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Wear masks as described above from today, and if you can work from home, please do so.

Evidence suggests that Omicron has some ability - but not total ability - to evade antibodies from infection with previous variants or from vaccination. But evidence also suggests that people who are fully vaccinated DO have some protection from more serious illness or death as a result of the Omicron variants. 

If you are fully jabbed the Omicron variant is much less likely to put you in hospital or kill, you. 

So for your own sake, your family's sake, and your community's sake, if you have not yet had your jabs and do not have a specific medical reason why you have been advised by qualified medical professionals not to take the vaccine, get vaccinated as soon as possible.


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