Health advice after Omicron coronavirus variant discovered in Sandwell

A case of the Covid-19 omicron variant has been confirmed in Sandwell - it is believed that there are are other unconfirmed cases in the region

<p>The Omicron Covid variant was first detected in early November 2021 (Photo: Shutterstock)</p>

The Omicron Covid variant was first detected in early November 2021 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Health advice has been issued to people in Sandwell after one case of the Omicron variant was discovered in the borough.

It is the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus variant in the West Midlands. Two cases have also been confirmed in Warwickshire, one in Newcastle upon Lyme and one in Telford.

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The Omicron strain, or B.1.1.529, is a super mutant variant which has 50 genetic mutations, over 30 of them being spike protein mutations.

The total number of confirmed Omicrom cases in the UK has reached 246,  after 86 new infections reported, according to figures published on Sunday (December 5).

Health bosses are recommending the following:

  • Join the 46 million people in the UK who are fully vaccinated
  • Get a booster shot if you are over 18 and it’s been three months since your second jab – the effectiveness of any vaccine slightly drops over time, so it’s very important to get a ‘top-up’ to ensure you are as safe as possible.
  • Continue to wear face coverings – from November 30, it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport, consider wearing one in other crowded spaces with lots of people.
  • Continue to practice good hand hygiene, in particular hand washing.
  • Make an effort to ventilate spaces – ensuring a constant flow of fresh air can make a big difference, you can open windows, doors and vents, even opening for 10 minutes to let some fresh air can really help.
  • Keep getting tested regularly with PCR tests if you have symptoms and Lateral Flow tests if you do not.
  • Get tested before meeting up with others and don’t go if your test is positive.
  • Self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace or local authority public health teams and minimise your contact with others if you know you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Are there any other cases of Omicron in the West Midlands?

It is believed there are other cases of Omicron in the West Midlands, which have not been confirmed yet.

It comes after Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of East Anglia, said the Omicron variant could start out competing the dominant Delta variant within weeks.

He told BBC Breakfast the new variant is spreading rather more quickly than the Delta variant.

The variant was discovered due in part to the council’s own version of the track and trace system, created last year to plug the gaps of people with the virus not being reached.

This includes using a range of new information, including S Gene Target Failure (SGTF) data, which gives an early signal that a coronavirus case may be omicron.

Language has been a particular barrier amid a struggle to provide staff with translation services to help them communicate with people who don’t speak English.

What has Sandwell Public Health said about the detection of Omicron?

Dr Lisa McNally, director of public heath at Sandwell council said: “We were able to identify this case of Omicron infection a few days before it was confirmed, meaning that contacts could isolate and break the chain of infection.

“However, it does seem clear that this new variant spreads very easily and we can expect many more cases in the days and weeks to come.

“This is not much of a shock to us. Sandwell should not necessarily be exempt in the discovery of the variant.

“New research also suggests that having been infected with Covid previously doesn’t offer much protection against reinfection with omicron. Therefore, vaccination is crucial if we are going to stay safe this winter.

“The vaccine remains our best defence against Coronavirus. Whether it’s the first or second dose, or the booster if you are eligible, please take up the offer.

“If you have any symptoms, no matter how mild, you should self-isolate get a PCR test. This can save lives.”

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