Today we received an update from our medical and scientific advisers on the latest COVID-19 situation and, in particular, the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The emergence of this new strain of the virus is a serious and concerning development worldwide. And while there is no need for alarm, it is vitally important that everyone redoubles their efforts to drive infection rates down.
The evidence on the new variant is being very closely monitored. And our public health experts will continue to liaise with colleagues in other jurisdictions as the situation develops globally and locally.
No cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, but that situation is likely to change in the coming days. The public will be kept informed and health protection measures will be actioned as appropriate.
It is still unclear whether the clinical impact of this new Coronavirus variant will be more serious so it is essential that we take preventative action now. We must use this time wisely to drive COVID-19 infection rates down.
We are grateful to the public for how they have responded so far. People’s actions are already having an impact and we thank everyone for the steps they are taking.
The effectiveness of the booster vaccination programme is evidenced in reduced hospital admissions; the large number of people coming forward for first dose vaccine in recent weeks will make a real difference; and the collective effort to adhere to the public health advice has helped in reducing the number of cases.
We know what works. And as we approach Christmas, it is vital that we all continue to work together to keep our society open, protect our health service and save lives.
We urge everyone to remain vigilant and play your part in slowing the spread of the virus by following these simple steps:
- Get first and second vaccine doses, and get your booster when eligible- up to date information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine;
- Limit your social contacts;
- Meet outdoors when possible;
- If meeting indoors, make sure rooms are well-ventilated;
- Wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings;
- Work from home if possible;
- Practise good hand and respiratory hygiene;
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate immediately and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
We thank everyone for continuing to make safer choices that will help to protect you, your family and our society.
Our priority remains keeping our children and young people in school.
We recognise the challenges being faced across all our educational settings and the work that teachers and all staff are doing at this difficult time to support young people.
We will continue to work with all concerned to keep our schools open and safe.