Together, we face an extremely uncertain and challenging winter period.
You will be aware we have a new coronavirus variant, Omicron, which is already proving to be highly transmissible. Nationally, there were around 1,000 detected cases of this new variant one week ago. In a short space of time, this has soared rapidly, with Public Health officials estimating approximately 200,000 daily Omicron infections now, and it is thought that the virus is doubling every two days. While we will learn more about the potential severity of Omicron over the coming days and weeks, we know that it is already causing hospitalisations here in the UK. The UK’s chief medical officers have declared a Level 4 National Incident.
We need to be deeply concerned by Omicron but we also know a booster vaccine dramatically improves protection.
Our local NHS is working tirelessly to ensure every eligible adult over the age of 18 is offered a booster vaccination by 31 December, as outlined by the Prime Minister.
We have a number of vaccination options here in North Lincolnshire – including Scunthorpe Vaccination Centre, for pre-booked appointments. Our General Practice teams are now working even more hours to vaccinate more people and this will continue over the Christmas and New Year period. Please make sure you take up this vaccination offer to protect yourself and your loved ones.
I know the last two years have been incredibly difficult but I would really encourage continued caution. Restrictions will be subject to change depending upon the changing situation, but, wherever possible, please do limit the number of people you mix with, wear facemasks, ensure good hand, cough and sneeze hygiene, and keep a healthy distance from each other. And I must stress the importance of, not only regular lateral flow testing while not symptomatic, but the importance of isolating and immediately booking a PCR test if you do become symptomatic with a new cough, temperature or a change in smell or taste.
Winter is always our most pressured time in the NHS. As well as the usual winter viruses, a backlog of care due to coronavirus, and now Omicron, on top of Delta to contend with, there is a real risk that our NHS will struggle this winter. By minimising virus transmission, you lower the chance of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed – so our NHS is there to help, promptly, should you or your loved ones need it.
Thank you for being so supportive of our health messages over the last 12 months. I firmly believe it is down to your caring and collective approach that our North Lincolnshire seven-day infection case rate remains lower than many other areas in our region and our vaccine booster uptake percentage has been higher than the England average.
Despite an acceleration of the vaccination effort, I want to remind everyone that our NHS is still very much here for you over the festive period. Local pharmacies, 111 Online, NHS 111 and your General Practice teams are here to help. If it is an emergency, then don’t hesitate to call 999.
Please be patient with our NHS staff, and be kind to them. They have worked so very hard and have seen a lot of severe illness and death, including their own loved ones in some cases. Many have not had a break for the best part of two years.
I can assure you our NHS teams will continue to do everything we can to be there for you should you need us.
Have a safe Christmas and wishing you a happy and healthy 2022.
Dr Faisel Baig
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