Oxfordshire will be the focus of targeted testing activity following the identification of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Extensive surveillance of COVID-19 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has identified a small number of cases of the Omicron variant in localities across England, including one confirmed and two highly probable cases in Oxfordshire.
The confirmed case is in West Oxfordshire. The two highly probable cases are in Oxford: both are members of Oxford University and their cases are linked.
All three individuals are now self-isolating and their close contacts have been informed and asked to self-isolate.
Oxfordshire County Council is working closely with the UKHSA and the University to identify any further cases through targeted testing.
“Robust contact tracing has taken place following the identification of three cases in the county. We have taken swift action so that we can understand if the new variant has spread and break the chain of transmission as quickly as possible. I’d like to thank our partners at the UKHSA and the University for all their help.
“While this work takes place, it is important that everyone continues to take sensible precautions: get a PCR test if you have symptoms, self-isolate when asked, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, ventilate rooms, and get your vaccine and booster as soon as you can.
“Getting vaccinated still remains the best way to reduce the chance of becoming severely ill with COVID-19, and boosters will soon become available to everyone aged 18 or over.
“I would urge everyone to play their part to keep their communities safe. If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, please follow their instructions about testing and self-isolating.
“I would also like to remind people that if you come into contact with someone who has the Omicron variant, you must isolate for ten days - regardless of your vaccination status.”
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health
“The news that we have a confirmed case of Omicron is a reminder to us all to follow the covid rules. Wear a mask on public transport and in shops, keep testing at home, and isolate if you have any symptoms or are contacted by test and trace.
“We have restarted our covid secure team patrols in the city centre, to help businesses and customers continue to enjoy Oxford safely.
“The new rules mean you must isolate if asked by test and trace, even if you’re double vaccinated. We know self-isolating creates practical problems around shopping, money, caring responsibilities, and the loneliness of self-isolation. For those that can’t ask family and friends for help, we and our partners are here to support you. Please get in touch if you need our help”
Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford
To contact the City Council for support please call 01865 249 811.
Oxford University has already put extra health measures in place in response to the government's recent restrictions related to the new variant. This includes additional COVID-19 testing, as well as making face coverings mandated in libraries, and strongly encouraging them in most indoor settings including during in-person teaching.
In addition, students are being asked to take two LFD tests before leaving Oxford for the Christmas vacation, and to self-isolate if they test positive. All staff and students are also being encouraged to follow all existing government and University health guidance. The University's health measures are informed by its clinical academics and are being continually reviewed in light of the evolving situation.