Omicron: ‘It doesn’t sound like a mild illness’ says Wales’ Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Wales’ Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said that Omicron doesn’t sound like a mild illness given that the testing that discovered the new variant in South Africa was done due to an increase in the number of cases and an increase of young people in hospital.
Dr. Gill Richardson said that despite there being no reported cases in Wales it was right to be precautionary until they knew exactly how dangerous the Omnicron variant was.
She said that they would follow the independent watchdog JCVI’s advice and reduce the waiting time for the booster from six to three months, and also on give 12-18 year olds a second dose.
“We are not alone in being precautionary,” Dr. Gill Richardson said. “Others have also taken these options. The science on this variant will not be fully known for many weeks.
“We do know that in the area of South Africa where the variant was detected that they saw a tenfold increase in cases in a short time. They were seeing younger people who had not been vaccinated going into ITUs. That doesn’t sound like a mild illness.”
She added that they were looking at creating more capacity in clinics to deal with a huge increase in the need for vaccination.
“It’s an incredible challenge,” she said. “Most people’s letters have already gone out up to the middle of December. We will need a call to arms to those who have helped us previously. We will be having a real push.
“There is a lot that we do not yet know about this variant but increasing the protection that the vaccine gives us will help.”
Wales’ Health Minister Eluned Morgan said that it was too early to tell how the Omicron variant would impact people’s Christmas plans.
More details would be revealed at the 21-day review a week on Friday, she said. In the meantime, anyone confirmed as a close contact of an Omicron case in Wales will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
“This could be a dangerous situation as we don’t know how fast this virus will move in the next few weeks,” she said.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about the variant. It’s too early to say yet what the situation is likely to be as we enter the Christmas period.
“People should take this to account as they are planning their activities over Christmas. The key message is to get vaccinated as soon as you can.”
Asked whether considering lockdown, firebreak or closing schools, she said that “we’ve literally had days to assess the situation”.
“It’s not in our communities and we have a responsibility to keep our society open for as long as possible. But if the situation changes we will have to change along with that.”
She added that news of the Omicron variant had come as a blow when they had “started to hope we could think about a future without the cloud of the pandemic above us”.
“Never has there been a more important time to work together to protect our families,” she said. “We need to do the small things such as getting vaccinated and taking regular LFT tests and meeting people outdoors if possible and wearing a face covering.
“It’s another serious development in the pandemic and one we’re taking very seriously.”