'Variant is a stark reminder pandemic isn't over'
- Credit: Simon Jupp
The UK first became aware of a new Covid variant on November 23, after South African scientists uploaded results to the GISAID global science database.
Countries around the world – including the UK – raced to put in travel bans and quarantine requirements on southern Africa.
Countries have been instinctively cautious because the variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.
As an MP, I know as little as everyone else about the Omicron variant while scientists tackle some burning questions over the coming weeks: how good is the new variant at evading immunity from vaccines or past illness, how severe are the symptoms, compared with previous versions, and how will this differ among age groups?
The Omicron variant is a stark reminder that we are not yet out of this pandemic, and we must take steps to protect the gains we have made in our fight against the virus.
All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days and face coverings are now compulsory in shops and on public transport.
A total of 1.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in Devon so far and that’s the single biggest thing that has allowed us to get back to normal life to do the things we love.
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All adults will be offered a booster jab by the end of January as the NHS ramps up vaccination capacity across the UK to best protect against the virus.
I know the specially-trained vaccinators, support staff, and army of volunteers at the Exeter Vaccination site at Greendale Business Park will rise to the challenge. But when you do go for a jab, I’d urge you to go out of your way to show everyone working at the site the politeness, courtesy and respect they deserve.
It may take a little time to be invited – in the coming days or weeks, if not already – as the NHS works to prioritise those most at risk.