THE FIRST suspected cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant have now been recorded in Dumfries and Galloway.
Fewer than five cases have been identified.
However, the Omicron variant is known to be more transmissible than the Delta variant, and omicron case numbers are expected to rapidly increase.
Director of Public Health Valerie White said: “Unfortunately, it was only ever a matter of time until Omicron arrived in Dumfries and Galloway – and now it’s here.
“This is an incredibly fast-changing situation, and the few short days we’d escaped the arrival of the variant as it spread elsewhere in Scotland may well prove to have been extremely valuable in continuing the roll out of our vaccination programme as the best possible defence.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone eligible go to the national portal and book in for your COVID Booster jag.
“It is absolutely vital that everyone eligible book in for a vaccination – particularly the COVID Booster which doesn’t just top up the body’s own natural immune defences but boosts them beyond that provided by either the first or second dose alone.”
Announcing a major change to the vaccination programme, Ms White said: “We’re expecting that as of Tuesday next week, anyone aged 30 years and above who is at least 12 weeks from their second dose will be able to book a booster vaccination.
“Currently, people aged over 40 along with unpaid Carers and household contacts of immune-suppressed should be booking in through the national portal by visiting https://vacs.nhs.scot/csp or calling 0800 030 8013.
“Meanwhile, young people aged 16 and 17 now need to use the portal to book their second doses.”
Other actions are being urged in the face of Omicron, including regular testing – with the message, ‘Before you go take a lateral flow’.
Ms White said: “Regular testing gives us our best chance to identify COVID early and help stop its spread.
“As such, people are now being recommended to take a quick, easy at-home Lateral Flow Test each time prior to heading out into a situation where they will be mixing with others.
“This helps provide an opportunity to identify COVID early and prevent other people from being exposed.”
Wearing of face coverings in indoor public areas and on public transport continues to be important, along with hand hygiene, and good ventilation when meeting others insides – giving full thought to our interactions.
Meanwhile, new advice was published yesterday by Public Health Scotland advising against holding Christmas parties, as part of the growing response to the concerns posed by the coronavirus virus variant.
Today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in response to the COVID variant that, with limited exemptions for critical services, all household contacts of a confirmed COVID case should isolate for ten days, regardless of their vaccination status and even if they initially receive a negative PCR test.