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Are you worried about the new variant?

Tori_Scope
Tori_Scope Posts: 7,032

Scope community team

What do we know about Omicron?

World Health Organisation (WHO): Update on Omicron
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.  

Transmissibility

It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.  

Severity of disease

It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.  
There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.  
All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key. 
The Guardian: Omicron: What do we know about the new variant?

Has it reached the UK?

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency announced that 75 more cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant had been identified in England, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 104.

How might people in high-risk groups be affected by Omicron?

Again, it is too early to be sure how the variant might affect the elderly or other members of high-risk groups. However, some scientists have voiced concerns. “The big issue is the elderly population,” said Kao.

“Over the past few months, this variant has been circulating in younger age groups, because they’re the ones who are relatively unprotected. However, the variant may shift its profile to infect more older people, who we know are more vulnerable to severe infection for the other variants. The reasoning is straightforward. If the variant is able to evade the immune response of young people, then the built-up immunity in the elderly – due to high levels of vaccination combined with natural infection – will be less meaningful. That, obviously, is a real worry."

What are the new restrictions?

You can read about the current restrictions on gov.uk's coronavirus page.

England

New rules in response to Omicron variant 

You must wear a face covering in shops and on public transport. Face coverings should be worn in communal areas of universities, colleges and schools by staff, visitors and pupils or students in year 7 and above.

If you’re travelling to England from abroad you must take a PCR test before the end of day 2 following your arrival and self-isolate until you get a negative test result, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

If you’re a contact of someone who may have been infected with the Omicron variant, you must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of your age, vaccination status or any negative test results.

Changes to the red list for international travel
Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia have all moved to the travel red list. You can only enter England from these countries if you are a UK or Irish resident. You must quarantine in a managed hotel on arrival and take 2 COVID-19 tests.
Booster vaccines
People aged 40 to 49 can now get a booster vaccine 6 months after their second dose. Book your vaccination appointment online or find a walk-in clinic. The NHS will contact you when you are eligible to book your booster dose.

Wales

New rules in response to Omicron variant

All staff and students in secondary schools, colleges and universities should wear a face covering indoors where social distancing is not possible.

If you’re a contact of someone who may have been infected with the Omicron variant, you must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of your vaccination status or age.

If you’re fully vaccinated and travelling to Wales from abroad, you must take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.

Changes to the red list for international travel
South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are now on the travel red list. You cannot enter Wales if you have been in a red list country in the last 10 days. You must quarantine in a managed hotel on arrival and take 2 COVID-19 tests.
Booster vaccines
People aged 40 to 49 will be invited to have their booster vaccine. Your health board will contact you when it’s your turn.
Vaccinations for 12 to 17 year olds
All young people aged 16 and 17 will be invited to have their second vaccine from 12 weeks after their first dose. All young people aged 12 to 15 can contact their health board if they have not received their first dose.

model of structure of coronavirus

How might the new restrictions affect disabled people?

The Guardian: England’s new Covid measures still leave clinically vulnerable people out in the cold
Boris Johnson’s emergency address this weekend about the new Omicron variant felt like a return to the old days of the pandemic. The measures announced, though, were hardly significant: for example, introducing mandatory masks in shops and on public transport only brings England in line with what the other home nations have long been doing, and hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants aren’t included in the new rules.
Perhaps most worryingly, protections for those most at risk from the virus, such as older and disabled people, were not even mentioned. There is no government advice as yet on how clinically vulnerable people are meant to live throughout the winter. Previously, 3.7 million clinically vulnerable people in England were asked to shield in their homes, and were given some government support to do so. Now they are effectively on their own, left to navigate having to go into the office, or meet friends at Christmas in a pub with no masking rules.

Even before the discovery of the new variant, people with underlying health conditions were being widely ignored, despite case numbers remaining high. Months after the official shielding programme ended, Office for National Statistics data from October showed almost one in four clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people were still shielding, while 68% were leaving the house but taking extra precautions.

Many CEV people tell me they’re bracing against the cold and only socialising outdoors, while others aren’t seeing loved ones at all. As one young man with cerebral palsy and asthma, who is not leaving his flat other than for vaccine appointments, told me: “I feel like a hamster on a wheel. If anything, the isolation of shielding is getting more entrenched than ever before by the rest of the population returning to ‘normal’.”

Ministers have only made matters worse. Over the past few months, the government has removed many measures that would have helped clinically vulnerable people. In England, the legal requirement to wear a mask ended as far back as July, apart from in healthcare settings and care homes. Once furlough ended in October, clinically vulnerable people had fewer options to shield themselves. Many were sent back to packed offices or public-facing roles, without the legal right to work from home or still be paid if they couldn’t.

Since August, close contacts of people in England who test positive for Covid haven’t had to self-isolate if they have been double-vaccinated. The government appears to have little interest in either preventing or tracking non-hospitalised Covid cases – a strategy that is dangerous to even vaccinated clinically vulnerable people in the UK, who must try to avoid contracting Covid in a population where 1 million people currently have the virus.

The government clearly believes vaccines – and the booster programme in particular – can form its main line of defence, but while the rollout is providing huge relief, it is not a silver bullet. More than 100,000 extremely vulnerable people are yet to have their third jab after confusion over who is eligible. Medication or certain health problems mean two in five people who have impaired immune systems have a “low or undetectable” antibody response after being double vaccinated, meaning they in particular require a “vaccine plus” strategy – such as masks and increased distancing – to feel safer. The consequences of all this can’t be ignored: millions of people with underlying health conditions are being shut out from public life.

Over to you...

Are you worried about the Omicron variant?

Do you feel as though the new restrictions have gone far enough?

Do you think disabled people are being disproportionately affected?

Have you had any trouble accessing your booster vaccination?
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Comments

  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,281 Disability Gamechanger
    Putting facts on a web site. Some people will be very disappointed :)
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 6,088 Disability Gamechanger
    I'm concerned about the new variant I have to admit to being no more worried by it than the others. I think we need to wait and see how well we are protected by the vaccinations.
    As for restrictions, thats a really difficult one at this time of year especially, the govt. are dammed if they do and dammed if they don't.
    I think basically that only time will tell, maybe 2-3 weeks from now there will be more to discuss?
    Be kind to newer members
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,281 Disability Gamechanger
    Been made derby clear by the scientists today that three weeks will be too late. 
  • iza
    iza Member Posts: 492 Pioneering
    edited December 2021
    Hi, @Tori_Scope,

    I think the new variant of virus is the last things on this Planet I am really worry about. 
    What truly worry me, is that people still did not realised that we are one big family, we are just one and only one human being specie. I dream,  to see one day all entire World united, all nations united. I think we are still a bit far away from achieving this. Maybe the situation with the current pandemic is a lesson for us. Lesson to teach that if there is no borders for virus as it travels all over the World, there should not be any borders anywhere because we could be all living kindly, supporting each others. 
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 6,088 Disability Gamechanger
    I'm sorry to say that history teaches us, that history teaches us nothing. (thats me being profound).
    Be kind to newer members
  • DanceDeb
    DanceDeb Member Posts: 13 Listener
    I worry about the fatigue side of the new variants as I am already fatigue now but I have had all my jabs . Fingers crossed I should be as protected as much as I can be ?
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 7,032

    Scope community team

    It's good to hear that you've had all of your jabs for the time being @DanceDeb! You can also protect yourself and others by following guidance on social distancing, mask-wearing (if you're able to), and testing. I hope you manage to stay well :)
    Online Community Coordinator, she/her

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  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,281 Disability Gamechanger
    Provided you wear a mask; socially distsbce abs make sensible decisions around work, shopping in travel then I see little point in worrying about each specific variant in turn. I’d worry more about the serial incompetence which has allowed this to persist. 

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