Government introduces fresh measures to contain Omicron variant

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Government introduces fresh measures to contain Omicron variant

 Government introduces fresh measures to contain Omicron variant
Image source: OSORIOartist, Shutterstock.com

Highlights 

  • The government has introduced new measures to curtail the impact of Omicron
  • Face coverings have been made compulsory for all the individuals, unless exempted
  • vaccine makers are analysing resultant effect of existing vaccines on the new variant

Following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus and growing uncertainty around the Covid activity, the government of the United Kingdom has introduced new reciprocatory measures to curtail the impact of the virus in the country. The fresh set of pandemic guidelines came into effect from 4am GMT on Tuesday, 30 November, 2021, as other European countries contemplate reimposing stern social distancing mandates to avoid any major disruption due to the mutated strains of virus.

Under the new Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, face coverings have been made compulsory for all the individuals in shops and while travelling through public transport. The government has reintroduced the mask mandate for the first time after relaxing the social distancing norms in the July-September quarter, subsequent to the stage 4 of planned easements.Prime Minister Boris Johnson statement on Omicron variant

The targeted measures have been specifically announced to circumvent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant as Britons prepare to celebrate the upcoming festivities with the least possible restrictions. Earlier last year, the decision to impose the third national lockdown was taken right after the year-ender holidays as rate of infection and hospital admissions continued to rise at an alarming rate.

As the healthcare authorities continue to assess the situation, gauging the prospective impact of the new Covid-19 variant, the new measures have been announced in a precautionary step while the concerned departments gather more information about the transmissibility of strain. The vaccine makers and the related biotech corporations are analysing the resultant effect of existing vaccines on the new variant, whether they will be able to offset the damage.

As Covid-19 vaccines continue to remain the best defence against the Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus, providing the maximum possible protection, all the individuals who are eligible to receive the vaccine and the booster dose have been encouraged to complete the two-dose regimen as soon as possible. Increasing the number of inoculated individuals in the country will certainly decrease the vulnerability, effectively safeguarding the nation.

Receiving the Covid-19 vaccine on time helps in reducing the effect of the virus even if the person contracts an infection. The time period of recovery and the time spent in the hospitals have been reduced for all the individuals who have taken both the doses of vaccine.

The Downing Street administration has strictly advised all the individuals in contacts of suspected Omicron cases to self-isolate immediately, the move that can help prevent a chain of infections. People in proximity of an individual who has been infected with the Omicron variant are required to be isolated, irrespective of their vaccination status and age. All such individuals will be contacted by the Test and Trace team of the National Health Service (NHS).

As far as mandating face coverings in public places, people are required to wear masks while going shopping, visiting hairdressers, going to public settings including banks, post offices and while commuting through public means of transport, be it trains, buses, taxis and airplanes. Only exempt individuals will be allowed to travel without wearing a face mask.

With a larger influx of people coming from overseas locations, all the international arrivals are mandatorily required to undertake a PCR test by the end of second day upon arrival in the UK. The people coming from different international locations are advised to self-isolate themselves until they receive a negative test result.

The targeted measures are of precautionary nature as they are imposed on a temporary basis. The government will be reviewing the level of Covid activity after every three weeks and the position of social distancing mandates. The new guidelines intended to curb the spread of the new virus variant will remain under continuous review. The Downing Street administration will make sure that the so-called measures remain proportionate and necessary.

Under the UK’s red list of international travel, the administration has added 10 countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Eswatini, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Lesotho. The NHS has increased the frequency of PCR testing in the country, alongside enhanced contact tracing at the places where initial cases of Omicron are found. The PCR tests are also available online from the private providers.

People returning positive in the test results are being followed up and told to isolate. All such individuals can get tested as necessary. Targeting testing programmes have been carried out by the UK Health Security Agency at specific locations where the vulnerable patients are likely to contract the new variant.

The newly imposed measures by the government will certainly provide a time to slow down the impact of the variant as concerned authorities continue to understand the scale and scope of the new variant and fully understand the response of existing vaccines towards the changing behaviour of the virus. The corporations working to introduce therapeutic treatments for Covid-19 are likely to ascertain the transmissibility and nature of the new virus variant.

On Monday, 29 November, itself, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised to extend the booster programme to all the adults under the age bracket of 18 and 39 years. Alongside recommending the booster shot to all adults, the Committee has also advised to reduce the gap between the second dose and the booster.

Furthermore, kids between the age of 12 and 15 years are recommended to receive the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine only after completing the 12-week period following the administration of the first dose. A booster shot of vaccine has been recommended for severely immunosuppressed individuals who have already received three primary doses of vaccine.

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