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Public Health Suffolk chief says Christmas plans do not need to be cancelled in the wake of the Omicron variant

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People do not need to panic or halt Christmas plans because of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, Suffolk’s public health chief has said.

But they have been urged to get their booster jabs and continue wearing face masks in enclosed spaces in order to reduce his impact.

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble told Friday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board of public sector leaders that it will take another two or three weeks for more answers to emerge on the new variant.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL.
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL.

But he stressed that Christmas isn’t cancelled, urging people instead to take the day-today measures they can do to ensure the virus doesn’t spread.

“This is a new variant and clearly it has got people concerned, but we shouldn’t be panicking,” he said.

“The fact is viruses mutate and that is what they do.”

He added: “We mustn’t be surprised that we will see the spread of the Omicron variant in Suffolk.

“Transmission will take place, we will have it seeded from people travelling from other countries, and what we will do as a local system is to really focus down on those individual cases, identify contact tracing.

“If we can try to slow down any transmission that gives us as much time to get jabs into people’s arms.

“We shouldn’t stop seeing friends and family, and it isn’t that we shouldn’t be celebrating Christmas, but we know the things we need to do.

“We need to get our booster jab. If we are meeting up with groups of other people then very much take a lateral flow test, and face coverings when you are mixing with people – especially in corridors or small spaces – wearing a face covering and regular hand hygiene are still important.”

The meeting was told that the difference in South Africa’s population to the UK’s made it difficult to predict the mutation’s effect.

According to Mr Keeble, South Africa’s population had an average age of 27 and had a much lower vaccination take up, compared to the 41 average age in the UK and the proportionally higher vaccination rate.

Advice has been issued for people to get their booster jab as soon as they can after being invited, and continue regular hand washing.

Face coverings should continue to be worn in enclosed spaces, and for those meeting up with others they should take a lateral flow test beforehand to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Any activities which ca be carried out online rather than in person should also be considered.

Mr Keeble added: “We know those small acts are worth it so we can continue doing the things we love, including spending time with our friends and family this Christmas.”