Manchester Carers Centre

An important message about COVID-19 from David Regan, Director of Public Health , Manchester City Council

What is Omicron, what do we know about it, and why are we concerned?

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, is constantly changing and mutating, which means there will often be new variants detected. It is normal for any virus to change over time. Omicron has more mutations than previous strains of COVID-19. However, there is still a lot that we do not know and we will continue to learn more about it over the next few weeks.

It is possible that it may spread more easily than previous strains. One concern is that our current vaccines may not be as effective, although there is evidence now emerging that that being doubly vaccinated and having a booster may help prevent serious illness. While the scientists are working hard to find out more, we need to be cautious. We are being proactive and asking people to take action now, to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our communities as safe as we can. This is especially important for older people, people with long-term illnesses, and pregnant women, who are all more vulnerable to severe disease.

Please find information below, which contains the main messages you need to know. A flyer is also available containing the key advice and guidance (click here to see easy read flyer)

Key messages for everyone who lives or works in Manchester

  1. Back to basics – the measures we have become so familiar with are really important in slowing down the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, so please:
  • Keep having your COVID-19 vaccinations and booster jabs when invited
  • Keep washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or hand sanitiser
  • Keep wearing face coverings on public transport and in crowded and enclosed places such as shops, unless you’re exempt
  • Keep letting fresh air in if you meet indoors (meeting outdoors is safer)
  • Keep wiping down surfaces (handles, doors etc)
  • Keep having a PCR test if you have COVID-19 symptoms, and self-isolating if required
  • Stay at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community
  • Download the NHS COVID-19 app. Keep your Bluetooth and contact tracing on to stay informed in case you come into contact with a positive case.
  1. COVID-19 vaccination booster
  • If you are already vaccinated, boosters increase your protection against COVID-19 and help prevent severe illness and death
  • A booster gives you a higher level of protection than you had after your second dose
  • Anyone who had their second dose over six months ago can have a booster now. Visit nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119
  • There are also local walk-in clinics where you don’t need an appointment. Visit manchester.gov.uk/getmyjab for more info, or call the Manchester Gateway for free on 0800 092 4020 or 0161 947 0770 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am–6pm, excluding bank holidays). The Gateway can also book a free taxi if you need help getting to your vaccination appointment
  • If you haven’t had your first or second vaccination yet, it is never too late. You can use the websites and phone numbers above to book or find out more
  • The vaccination of housebound people in Manchester is underway. Housebound people who have not yet had their vaccination should contact their GP. Carers of someone who is housebound and has not yet had their vaccination can call the GP on their behalf
  • Most people will have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for their COVID-19 booster jab. Research has shown these vaccines are very effective as a booster even if a different vaccine was given as the first and second dose.
  1. Rapid lateral flow tests when you don’t have symptoms

Please continue to use rapid lateral flow tests before:

  • Entering crowded or enclosed spaces
  • Going to places that have limited fresh air
  • Meeting people at higher risk of severe illness.

You can still get rapid lateral flow test kits from a local pharmacy or library. Go to manchester.gov.uk/coronavirus for details. You can also order a test kit online: gov.uk/order-coronavirusrapid-lateral-flow-tests or call 119 for free to get a test kit for home delivery. If you are a parent or carer of a secondary school child, please also support them with any additional testing that might be organised through school.

  1. Help and support services
  • Manchester COVID-19 Helpline – Call free on 0800 234 6123, or text 07890 036 892. This service is for anyone with COVID-19 questions. It can also help with booking vaccination or testing appointments, and answering questions on when to self-isolate. Advice is provided by a nursing team seven days a week, 9am–5pm, and a translation service is available
  • Support is also available from Manchester’s Community Response Hub, open Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm. Freephone 0800 234 6123, text 078600 22876, email COVIDSupport@manchester.gov.uk for support with managing fuel top-up payments, access to food, delivery of medication and combating loneliness
  • Support to self-isolate – There is a lot of help and support if you do test positive. If you’re on a low income and you’re asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you may be able to get a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. For more information visit manchester.gov.uk/selfisolationpaymentscheme
  • For more general information visit manchester.gov.uk/coronavirus and gov.uk/coronavirus
  1. What changed from 30 November?

The measures below came into effect on Tuesday 30 November 2021 to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant in England:

Face coverings

  • Unless you are exempt, you must wear a face covering in shops and on public transport. Face coverings should be worn in communal areas of universities, colleges and schools by staff, visitors and pupils or students in year 7 and above. For full details on where face coverings must be worn, visit gov.uk/coronavirus
  • You must continue to wear a face covering in hospitals, GP practices, vaccination sites and all other places that provide medical care, unless you are exempt
  • Remember to change your face covering daily and dispose of any that can’t be washed and reused responsibly.

Boosters

  • Everyone aged 18 years and over will be eligible for a booster three months after their second dose
  • The NHS will be offering a booster to all adults, starting with the most at risk and oldest first. Please don’t try and book your jab until the NHS tells you it is your turn
  • You may have to wait a little longer than three months as a booster is gradually offered to each age group. If it has already been six months since your second dose, you can get it now (see above).
  • People with a severely weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) should have their booster this winter, on top of the three doses they should already have had.

COVID-19 vaccinations for children and young people

  • Children aged between 12 and 15 years will be offered a second jab – no less than three months after their first dose.
  • 16 and 17 year olds will continue to be offered their second vaccination three months after their first one.

Testing and travel

  • Anyone entering the UK will require a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival and will need to self-isolate until they receive a negative result. For more information visit gov.uk/coronavirus
  • From 4am on 7 December 2021 all international travellers aged 12+ and people returning to the UK from vacation will need to get a pre-departure PCR test before they travel, visit gov.uk/coronavirus
  • For countries on the Government’s red list for international travel, visit gov.uk/coronavirus

Self-isolation for contacts

  • If you are a contact of a suspected Omicron case, you will be contacted and asked to self isolate for ten days, regardless of your vaccination status; this includes people aged under 18. This is because the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is new, and information is still emerging about how quickly it spreads from person to person, and how effective the existing COVID-19 vaccines are against it.

Remember

You still need to have tests and follow all the COVID-19 safety advice even after you’ve been vaccinated. We are in uncertain times learning to live with what is a relatively new virus and disease. Guidance and messages can and will change. For the latest information please use reliable websites such as gov.uk/coronavirus and manchester.gov.uk/coronavirus If you have any concerns or queries you can contact Manchester COVID-19 Helpline – Call free on 0800 234 6123, or text 07890 036 892 seven days a week, 9am–5pm, and a translation service is available. Thank you for your support in keeping Manchester’s residents and communities safe and well.

BACK
Coronavirus Omicron Update