People across North Yorkshire are being encouraged to take responsibility for helping to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant after the Government announced additional safety measures.

Residents are urged to be extra vigilant and to follow the new rules to protect themselves, their families and friends – because small, simple measures can make a big difference.

The new measures include working from home where possible, wider use of face coverings and an extended requirement for a Covid pass at venues and events.

Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, says the precautions are necessary while more is learned about the Omicron variant, how quickly it can spread and what its implications are.

“If we all play our part in this, small measures can add up to making a big difference,” said Louise. “Please take these simple steps to protect yourself, your family and your friends.

“We don’t want anybody to become ill. Many people have experienced the virus themselves or through friends and relatives and, sadly, some people have died, so now is the time to do anything we can to slow the spread.

“While the latest data shows that the presence of the Omicron variant is yet to be confirmed in North Yorkshire, it is only be a matter of time, so we need to act as if it is here already.”

If planning to socialise before or over Christmas, people should ensure they do so as safely as possible.

“I totally understand that people will want to get together and celebrate,” said Louise, “but as always I urge people to think about the risk and try to minimise it by taking an LFD test before meeting in an enclosed space; making sure there is good ventilation, washing hands regularly and, of course, get a vaccine and the booster.”

If people do get together, they are advised to follow the precautions that have proved effective throughout the pandemic:

  • take a lateral flow test before socialising
  • wear a face covering
  • wash and sanitise hands regularly
  • make sure indoor locations are well-ventilated

“These measures have been very effective against all strains of the virus,” said Louise. “I hope people take the view that they want to protect themselves and friends and family from the virus. All these measures do make a difference.

“Most importantly, vaccination remains our best form of defence. We are working to understand whether there is any vaccine escape by the new variant, but nonetheless the message is that everyone should come forward to get vaccinated. If you are already vaccinated, get your booster – that is really important.”

The new measures in full

The measures announced by the Prime Minister are:

  • From Friday, 10 December, the government will further extend the legal requirement to wear a face mask to most public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas. There will be exemptions in venues where it is not practical to wear one, such as when you are eating, drinking or exercising.
  • From Monday, 13 December, those who can will be advised to work from home. Employers should use the rest of this week to discuss working arrangements with their employees.
  • From Wednesday, 15 December, and subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.
  • People will be able to demonstrate proof of two vaccine doses via the app. Having considered the evidence since the emergence of Omicron, proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.
  • As Omicron spreads in the community, the government also intends to introduce daily contact tests for contacts of confirmed positive Omicron cases instead of the ten-day self-isolation period

Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected on Tuesday, 14 December.