Omicron wave yet to reach Devon and Cornwall, expert warns

We are still experiencing the tail-end Delta surge from the large summer events such as Boardmasters!

Have you got that, Simon? – Owl

Evie Townend www.devonlive.com

An expert has warned that Devon and Cornwall are yet to experience the wave of Omicron that is gripping the rest of the country.

Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, said that the region is experiencing the tail-end of the Delta-variant surge that was caused by large events such as Boardmasters at the end of summer.

While the overall Covid numbers across the region appear to be falling, he says this is due to the Delta washing out while the Omicron hit is still to come.

David said: “Bizarrely as numbers are climbing nationally, the overall numbers in the South West appear to be waning but that’s more because we are coming out of a late wave of the Delta variant spread from the end of the Boardmasters peak that we saw in summer.

“We still have lots of Delta variant patients with only around 12 to 13% Omicron cases in the South West but I suspect that what’s been seen nationally with Omicron rising tremendously, I’m expecting it will hit us next week.”

While the severity of the Omicron variant is not entirely known, David said that its rapid transmission within the vaccinated population is a large cause for concern.

He said: “There are a few cases of the Omicron variant in hospital but the bigger problem that we’re seeing with Omicron is how quickly it’s spreading even within populations that are vaccinated.

“From a staffing point of view, across the whole of the health service, you can’t be going to work if you’re carrying the virus that will spread to the compromised patients that you’re looking after.

“So one of the big things we’re very worried about is the impact that this is going to have on our ability to continue to provide a health service in the next few months.”

David said he hoped that there would be some sort of circuit-break lockdown in the near future, however he felt “the government had made it very clear that they were not going to interfere with Christmas.”

Instead, he said that along with cancelling super-spreader events, extending school holidays or reintroducing remote schooling was a sensible option that could be a “half-way house” between a full two-week lockdown with the potential to “nip the variant in the bud.”

He said: “What we saw in October, particularly stark across Devon and Cornwall, was a massive reduction in transmission when the kids were on half term and that was actually a lot more than we could have hoped for.

“It was the same in the summer, with the so-called ‘freedom day’, everyone thought it would go catastrophic but it turns out that children are acting much more as vectors than anyone was expecting.

“Kids are about to start holidays and so actually what I would suggest the most sensible thing at the moment would be to extend the school holidays by a week or so.

“If they extend the Christmas holidays by a week or two that means that any covid within the family unit will stay there as more people will have to work from home or got out, it sort of becomes a lockdown by default.

“A week or two extra weeks of kids not mixing at school, which is where most of the spread of the delta variant spread, could be enough to nip Omicron in the bud.”

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