Coronavirus cases have risen steeply across Oxfordshire, and people in the county are being urged to take extra care during the festive period to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
Across the county, the 7-day average now stands at 1,000.7 per 100,000 people, according to government data to 16 December 2021. It was 743.6 seven days prior, representing a 34.5 per cent rise in a single week. This rise builds on steep increases since the middle of November.
In the past week alone, the case rate in Oxford has soared 74 per cent to 1101.0 per 100,000. And there are similar patterns across the other four districts in the county.
Local cases continue to break all previous records and surge ahead of national and South-East regional averages. However, this appears to be prevalent in people aged below 60 years.
There is a glimmer of hope, though. It appears that the increase in cases is not translating into increases in hospitalisations or death.
Preliminary studies in England and Scotland suggest that people with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are at a lower risk of being admitted into hospital.
The results echo the latest observations from South Africa, where public health officials have reported that the Omicron variant is tending to result in milder illness. Scientists had not been sure whether that finding would hold elsewhere.
“This is a very challenging phase of the pandemic both locally and nationally. The Omicron variant now accounts for at least 65 per cent of local cases. We know this is a far more transmissible variant, and that is why we are seeing such a steep rise in cases.
“While case rates remain highest in children, the number of cases in people in their 20s has grown hugely in recent days. These will very largely be people who are double rather than triple-jabbed. That’s why it’s so important to get a booster in order to offer yourself the best possible protection.
“With Christmas so close now, we know that people will want to socialise and mix with loved ones and friends. Our message is to do so with great care. Try to avoid very large gatherings and always remember the pandemic knowledge that has become so familiar to us all.
“Ventilate rooms with fresh air, wash your hands regularly, wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces, keep your distance from people when possible. Every little bit of cautious behaviour will help stop the spread of the virus and protect you and your loved ones.
“Perhaps most importantly, we urge people to test before they go to meet people. Please don’t unconsciously take the virus into someone else’s home and ruin their Christmas and New Year.
“We have known throughout the pandemic that older people are more vulnerable, so it is particularly important to take these precautions when you are going to be in contact with those age groups.
“The positive news is that people both locally and nationally have been coming forward in their droves to take up the offer of a booster jab. Please continue to do that – it undoubtedly offers extra protection to everyone during this new phase of the pandemic.
“We await further information from central government on whether decisions will be taken to move beyond Plan B in terms of restrictions. However, the ball is in our court as individuals to take care of ourselves and our families as best we possibly can.”
—Ansaf Azhar, Director of Public Health at Oxfordshire County Council