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Extra caution needed in response to Omicron

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Temporary measures to prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant will come into force tomorrow, Tuesday 30 November.

From 4am tomorrow, it will be compulsory for people to wear face coverings in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, unless they are exempt. 

Similarly, it will be compulsory to wear face coverings on public transport.

All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant is required to isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

And travellers entering the country from 4am Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test on or before day 2, and self-isolate until they have received a negative test result.  Those tests will need to be purchased from private providers, rather than use the free NHS tests.

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health Devon, said that while little is yet known about this new strain of the virus, it’s more important than ever for people to take up the vaccine as soon as they are eligible.

“We will learn more about the Omicron strain in the next few days, as cases spread and we see the impact that it is having on people’s health.

“This latest variant is another reminder that this pandemic is not yet over.

“The reintroduction of mandatory face coverings is good news, and we will wait to see what impact it has on case rates locally.  Devon secondary schools have been advised to wear face covering in communal areas since the start of term so the national announcement is helpful to reinforce the local action. 

“We need everyone now to be extra careful.”

Dr Paul Johnson, Chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said:

”We’re still learning about the Omicron variant, but we can be clear that social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing a mask where appropriate can reduce the spread of all strains of Covid-19 as well as of seasonal flu.

“As the temperature drops it’s really important to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and seasonal flu, if you are eligible, in order to protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS.”

The public health advice is:

  • Take up the vaccine as soon as you become eligible
  • Think carefully about socialising, and if you are meeting others, do so outside preferably, or indoors with ventilation
  • Get used to wearing face covering routinely again – certainly in shops, other settings and on public transport, where it’s will now be compulsory – but it’s advisable to wear them in any indoor situation where there are other people
  • Even if you show no symptoms of having the virus, use Lateral Flow Device tests regularly, especially ahead of high risk situations where you will be indoors with people you don’t live with