Omicron is on its way to Gloucestershire. It is doubling nationwide every 2-3 days, and will shortly be the dominant strain in our county. It is growing at a time when Cheltenham General Hospital and GRH are facing the greatest strain in living memory, with staff making extraordinary efforts to manage the backlog of operations and other care.
We know Omicron is much more contagious than Delta and better at infecting the double-vaccinated. Whilst early signs suggest it may be less lethal, scientists worldwide say it is too soon to tell for sure. But even if it is half as deadly, its increased contagiousness creates a remorseless mathematical logic. A small percentage of a massive number is still a large number, and Professor Graham Medley chair of SPI-M has warned publicly of the real risk of 2,000 infected people being hospitalised a day.
What’s the way out of this? Boosters. They work well and they’re the best way to preserve our freedoms. The measures Parliament voted for are, in reality, a fairly modest tap on the brake pedal to buy time to get more jabs in arms before the Omicron wave washes over us.
It’s also a less severe approach than that taken in France, Germany, Italy, Austria or Ireland.
The measures are not vaccine passports, they’re ‘Covid passports’. That’s because there is also the option for proof of a negative lateral flow test. Unlike in other countries, there’s no requirement to show a vaccine certificate in restaurants or pubs or theatres. It applies only to indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Importantly too these measures will be ‘sunsetted’ in January, meaning they will automatically expire.
To protect our hospital, the central defence is the booster, and I urge everyone to take up the offer when it comes.