Oxfordshire County Council is urging residents to do all they can to protect Christmas from COVID by abiding by new government restrictions in response to the Omicron variant.
Cases in the county currently stand at 537.4 per 100,000 people with 3,745 cases compared to 3,365 cases and a rate of 482.9 cases per 100,000 people on 19 November.
COVID still presents a significant risk, even if the chances of hospitalisation or death have decreased during 2021 for those who have been vaccinated.
Those who have come into contact with someone who has the Omicron variant will be told to isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status. Getting vaccinated and boosted still remains the best way for Oxfordshire residents to reduce their chance of becoming severely ill with COVID, and boosters will soon become available to everyone over 18 years.
Other national changes in response to the new variant are:
- Face coverings are now compulsory on public transport, in shops, banks and post offices, and in other retail settings such as hairdressers.
- Secondary school children and teachers are advised to wear face coverings in communal areas.
- All travellers to the UK must take a PCR test by the end of day 2 of their arrival. Travellers must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result or continue to self-isolate for 10 days if they are positive.
Ansaf Azhar, Director for Public Health at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We all remember that last Christmas was severely curtailed for everyone due to lockdown and restrictions. Luckily, we are in a different situation this year. However, we do now have a new variant to contend with as we head into winter. We want as many people as possible to have a COVID free festive period, which we all deserve after 2020.
“There are a number of ways we can do this. Firstly, get vaccinated – whether that’s your first or second dose or your booster jab. Increasing your levels of protection against this virus is particularly important at a time when we’re socialising much more. Everyone over 18 will be able to get a booster jab – keep an eye on when you are invited to get yours.
“Getting tested is also important because that means we avoid unwittingly taking COVID into someone’s home while visiting friends and family during Christmas. Taking a test provides reassurance that we can socialise without spreading the virus. The government has recently emphasised this part of its advice asking people to take tests regularly when they are mixing with people.
“Another positive move to make is to let in fresh air when indoors. I know it’s colder now, but even a little window open when gathering with others can help by stopping the virus from hanging around. Wearing a face covering in crowded spaces and washing your hands regularly also remain key.
“While we all hope and trust that this Christmas will be a more uplifting experience than 2020, it is fair to say that it still won’t be the same as in previous years.
“COVID thrives on the number of different contacts we have. The more we moderate our behaviour during December, the more likely we are to stack the odds in our favour in terms of getting to Christmas COVID-free.
“It’s fair to say that none of this is easy, particularly for families with children in school or for those whose jobs bring them into contact with lots of people. It’s a question of people managing things to the best of their ability, given their personal circumstances. That way all of us can look forward to a happy and healthy Christmas and new year.”