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No changes in advance of Omicron variant

An image of the virus that causes Covid-19 (File picture)

No decision on whether to limit the size of Christmas gatherings has been made amid fears over a new strain of the coronavirus, a health ministry spokeswoman said yesterday.

She said: “No decision at this time has been taken to limit Christmas events.”

But the spokeswoman emphasised: “All events must follow current public health guidance and restrictions.”

She was speaking after the Omicron variant of the coronavirus forced England to speed up its vaccination booster campaign and reintroduce the use of masks on public transport and in shops.

The UK last week temporarily banned flights from southern Africa, where the latest variant was first identified and the US also halted travel from a string of countries in the region.

The decisions came after the World Health Organisation only designated the new strain a “concern” and assigned it a name from the Greek alphabet last Friday.

The health ministry spokeswoman said the Government had “not updated our travel requirements due to the Omicron variant”.

She added: “We test all cases on entry by PCR and have very robust border surveillance processes.”

Editorial: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best

Kim Wilson, the health minister, told the House of Assembly last Friday that decisions would be based on science and evidence – and that the Government was ready to act if travel restrictions were needed.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary for England, this week vowed to put the country’s Covid-19 booster programme “on steroids”.

Bermuda stepped up its booster campaign last week by making the extra jab available to anyone aged 18 or over.

The spokeswoman added: “We will continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, and if eligible to get the booster, specifically during the time of discovery of a new variant.”

She said Bermuda was “in a position to test for the newly designated Omicron variant”.

The spokeswoman explained suspected cases would be sent overseas for genetic sequencing and cases would be reported if confirmed.

Covid-19 updates on the island have identified only the Delta variant of the coronavirus in cases where typing was available.

The spokeswoman said that the advice on the new variant from Public Health England was that “evidence to support the transmissibility, reinfections, evasion of the vaccines and the severity of Omicron is still to be determined”.

She added: “Bermuda has already been doing what is recommended regarding public health measures for SARS CoV-2, which are key to reducing transmission.”

The island was said to be moving out of the “community transmission” category on Monday as infections rates dropped in the wake of an autumn fourth wave.

The spokeswoman said: “We must keep a close eye on the developments within the next two to three weeks to determine adjustments that may need to be made.

“However, the Ministry of Health is prepared for a possible next wave.”

Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister, said the island was in a position to avoid a return to lockdown.

He added: "Any new variant during this pandemic is a concern and we must watch each one them closely as it pertains to any impact on Bermuda.

“The Omicron variant is not the first one experienced, and it is not likely to be the last.

“We have learnt significantly since Covid changed our lives in March 2020.

“We now know that masks help, social distancing is important and hand hygiene is critical at all times.

“We also have vaccines that have, to date, proven to be very effective and new treatments for anyone catching Covid are now more readily available.”

Mr Dunkley said: “Having noted all of this, it is important we use these tools to our advantage, gather all information we can on any variant, and take action as required.

“We have learnt enough and have tools available to combat Covid which should allow us to live and work going forward without lockdowns.

“Most experts predict Covid will be with us for months.

“It is critical that we keep our guard up while rebuilding lives and our island home."

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Published December 01, 2021 at 9:36 am (Updated December 01, 2021 at 9:38 am)

No changes in advance of Omicron variant

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