North Yorkshire faces race against time to prepare for Omicron

This story was published 17 December 2021

People in North Yorkshire are urged to prepare for potential major disruption as the UK’s tidal wave of Omicron infections hits the county.

Fire service delivering vaccines

Chief officers from North Yorkshire’s health services and emergency responders gathered today to warn residents that Omicron cases are doubling daily in North Yorkshire, and called on each and every one to play their part in lessening the impact on communities.

“We face a race against time as the Omicron variant begins to surge across the country,” said Richard Webb, North Yorkshire County Council’s Director of Health and Adult Services.

“Although numbers in North Yorkshire are lower at present, if we follow previous patterns, and what’s happening in London, it won’t be long before we are seeing high numbers of Omicron cases here in North Yorkshire.

“Even the most optimistic Government modelling is now projecting many more cases in January and February and we face the possibility of many more hospital admissions and sadly many more deaths.

“Disruption in the workforce could be much higher than the “pingdemic” which we saw this summer and we are worried about the potential impact on our communities, businesses and public services

“Living with Covid means responding quickly to deal with a new variant. We need to act now to buy time”.

Vaccination and getting a booster remain our best line of defence, he said as he set out three key messages:

  • if we act now to get vaccinated, take a lateral flow test before mixing socially, wear a face mask and ventilate rooms then we buy time;
  • people should be prepared to adjust their plans on a daily basis and businesses will need to think about how to operate with high levels of employee sickness and self-isolation because of Covid;
  • people will need to be patient with public services which will have to work differently during as Omicron cases increase

The rapid roll-out of the booster vaccination programme has already begun across the county and this week Fire and Rescue officers have been supporting vaccine delivery, driving up and down North Yorkshire  ensuring vaccines are where they need to be and at the right time. 

“This is an urgent situation and the time involved is substantial in getting these vaccines where they need to be,” said James Manning, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue group manager.  “For this reason the key agencies have come together to provide the best possible service to people”

All key agencies will be pulling out all the stops and working together in the coming weeks to support acceleration of the booster vaccination programme across the population, and particularly to those made vulnerable by Covid.

The NHS in North Yorkshire is expanding the number of vaccination sites at speed, including walk-in sites and some pharmacies.

Amanda Bloor, accountable officer for the North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and that people can now get a vaccine or booster jab from early in the morning to late in the evening.

All sites are open daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but she said sites would be open on these days also if necessary.

Amanda Bloor also sent out a plea for members of the public to treat the hard-pressed NHS workforce with respect.  She said: “The NHS in North Yorkshire is already experiencing high demand and Omicron will undoubtedly lead to staff absences and the service will be severely strained as we go into winter, traditionally a time of greatest pressure. 

“Some leave is being cancelled to deal with the pressures, therefore I urge people to be patient and respectful of staff and to use the service wisely.”

Watch as chief officers provide updates on the Omicron variant

Richard Webb, director Health and Adult Services

Louise Wallace, Director of Public Health

Amanda Bloor, NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group accountable

Victoria Turner, public health consultant on testing

Victoria Turner on Omicron variant