People heading Christmas shopping, to parties or busy places in Bristol are being asked to take a lateral flow test for Covid-19 before they leave the house.
The request came from Bristol’s director for public health, who said everyone has a part to play to reduce the transmission of Covid-19, lower the number of cases and numbers of people in hospital with the virus – on the day the first case of the new Omicron variant of Covid was found in the city.
Christina Gray said it was also important to take regularly lateral flow tests if you are going to visit friends and family who might be more vulnerable to serious illnesses from Covid-19.
The request came as Bristol’s first Omicron variant case was announced.
The variant, first detected in South Africa but spreading rapidly around the world, and is, at the moment, something of an unknown for scientists, who are calling for caution.
Early indications are that it is more transmissable than the Delta variant of Covid-19, and could be more resistant to vaccines, which could mean higher numbers of people seriously ill or dying as a result of catching it. As scientists race to discover just how different Omicron is to existing strains of the virus, there is mounting speculation that the Government in the UK could introduce a ‘Plan B’ with increased restrictions on working and socialising.
In Bristol, the first case has prompted Christina Gray to ask everyone in the city to step up the amount they are testing for the virus, especially if they are going into big Christmas shopping crowds, pubs and parties.
“Both PCR and lateral flow (rapid) tests are picking up infection from the Omicron variant,” she said. “If you’re heading into town to do some Christmas shopping, going to a social event or somewhere you might be mixing with people in crowded, indoor places, please take a lateral flow (rapid) test.
“This is equally important if you’re visiting a friend, family member or loved one who is more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. If you’re feeling unwell, stay at home and recover safely – don’t spread it around. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, self-isolate immediately and book in for a PCR test,” she added.
She also called on everyone to get up to date with their covid vaccinations – get first or second doses or the booster if they are eligible.
“The preventative and protective measures for Omicron are the same as for existing variants. Please remain cautious and follow the well-known precautionary actions and behaviours including; washing your hands, covering your face, fresh air and ventilation,” she said.
“You must wear a face covering, unless you are medically exempt – this is now legally required on public transport, in taxis and in shops and other public settings. Even when it’s not mandatory, we strongly recommend that you wear a face covering, especially if you’re somewhere enclosed where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
“Most importantly, come forward for your vaccination if you’re eligible. There is still time to get your first dose and second dose if you haven’t already. If you’re eligible for your COVID-19 booster vaccination or your flu jab, please come forward. The more people that are vaccinated, the more everyone is protected.
“I also want to remind you about being conscious of the risks of international travel. New guidance is in place, including the requirement to take a PCR or lateral flow (rapid) test at least 48 hours before returning to England from abroad, as well as in the 48 hours after arrival. You must self-isolate until you receive a negative test result – no matter your vaccination status.
“By continuing to follow these precautionary measures, we can protect our communities and those most vulnerable. Every action, however small, makes a difference. We will keep you up to date with any further information or action,” she added.