Health boss's views on Omicron as Harborough's Covid infection rate reaches new record high

He is urging residents to get vaccinated, take precautions and not be fooled by the anti-vaxxers

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 6:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 6:02 pm

The Covid infection rate in Harborough has increased to a new record level of over 1,500 cases per 100,000 people, it’s emerged this evening.

The number of people with the new Omicron variant of the virus has now hit more than double the district’s previous all-time high of almost 750, it’s been revealed.

The rate of people infected with the highly-infectious strain across Harborough now stands at 1,510.4 per 100,000, the latest figures show.

Mike Sandys, Director of Public Health for Leicestershire

The grim statistics apply to the festive period over Christmas from Thursday December 23 to Wednesday December 29.

Harborough’s rate of infection almost matches the national figure for England of 1,508.

And it is slightly below the latest infection rate for Leicestershire of 1,569.2.

Mike Sandys, the Director of Public Health for Leicestershire, told the Harborough Mail this afternoon: “The number of people now infected with Covid in Harborough has more than doubled the previous high to climb to figures we’ve never seen before.

“The picture here in Harborough is pretty much replicating the statistics we are seeing across Leicestershire and throughout England.

“More people are getting tested and I expect the rate to go up again in the next few days as the New Year results come in,” warned Mike.

“The figures just go to highlight how highly transmissible the new Omicron variant actually is.

“But we have to stay calm and sensible and go on doing the right thing.

“Just as we have been urging people to do ever since the coronavirus pandemic blew up here in the first place almost two years ago.”

The county’s public health chief said that it’s almost impossible at the moment to define and quantify the exact impact of the new Omicron virus.

“We will just have to wait and see how this plays out over the next few weeks and months.

“There are currently about 250 patients with Covid in our three major hospitals in Leicester.

“That’s more than there were at the peak of the first wave in 2020 when it was 204,” said Mike.

“But then it’s only half of the 500 people that we had in Leicester’s hospitals battling the coronavirus last January as the crucial vaccination programme was just being rolled out.

“We now have fewer patients in our intensive care units with Covid than we did last September.

“About a third of people in hospital with the coronavirus are aged over 80.

“The vaccine has saved their lives – but they are still being treated in hospital.

“The number of people dying has also come down from the worst figures we saw last year,” said the hugely-experienced public health boss.

“We sadly had 16 people die after being infected with Covid in one week leading up to Christmas.

“But we had 90 coronavirus deaths in our hospitals in the worst week that we suffered last January.

“So I am reassured that the Omicron variant is milder than previous types.

“But let’s get this right – it is still worse than a common cold.

“We don’t get hundreds of people end up being treated in hospital with a cold,” insisted Mike.

He said the Omicron virus is starting to take its toll on the workforces of critical big employers such as the NHS, the 999 services, care homes, local councils, schools and the private sector.

“The rate of sickness absence is undoubtedly on the rise.

“There is a real problem now with working age adults going off sick or being forced to isolate,” said Mike.

“There are now fewer staff looking after more patients with Covid in our hospitals for example.

“I am expecting the situation to get worse rather than better in the short term.

“As I’ve said many times before we all have to continue to be extra careful and cautious.

“Rather than tagging them Covid ‘restrictions’ I’d rather that they be called ‘precautions’,” said the public health expert.

“Get your booster and all of your three vaccinations now.

“Ignore the anti-vaxxers – they are talking rubbish.

“Wear a face covering going in to a shop and other indoor spaces.

“Wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and ventilate your homes to let in fresh air.

“Clean your tops and other hard surfaces – and use your common sense.

“Be very careful about who you mix with and how.

“Let’s do all we can to protect ourselves and protect our loved ones, protect our communities,” declared Mike.

Asked what he thought about pupils and teachers being asked to wear masks all the time in schools, he replied: “Anything that helps to reduce the transmission of the virus has got to be good.

“I know that it’s a pain to wear a mask all day – and it can’t be easy to teach wearing a face covering either.

“But it is absolutely vital that we keep our schools open.

“We must do all we can to protect our schools – and keep our teachers safe as well as our students.

“Teachers are not immune!”

Asked how worried he is by the current Covid scenario, Mike said: “I’m just as worried as I was this time last year but in a different way if that makes sense.

“Many of us in Harborough and beyond are now vaccinated, which is great.

“But I’m obviously concerned by the growing impact of Omicron on the NHS as well as the police, fire and ambulance services.

“It is a gamble not to have locked down again in England over Christmas and New Year.

“And it’s only when we really see what the next few weeks bring when we’ll find out if the gamble’s paid off or not,” he said.