16 December 2021
The COVID-19 Omicron variant has been identified in Jersey, as a result of sequencing of PCR positive swabs. Over the past weeks, we have been sending a number of positive PCR samples to a UK laboratory each day for sequencing, to identify the presence of COVID-19 variants in the Island.
Results received today have confirmed that a very small number of the samples have returned positive for the Omicron variant. As the number of confirmed cases of Omicron identified so far is small, the exact number cannot be disclosed to protect confidentiality.
The relevant individual(s) remain well. They continue to follow the public health guidance and are in isolation.
As current evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is more transmissible, Direct Contacts of an Omicron positive case are required to isolate and undergo enhanced testing requirements.
In addition, positive Omicron cases and their Direct Contacts are not entitled to two hours outside of the home for purposes of exercise. These individuals will be issued with a legal notice which reminds them of this requirement, and confirms the possible consequences if they breach isolation.
Direct Contacts of the positive individual(s) were identified when the individual(s) were confirmed as COVID-19 positive. Those individual(s) have been contacted again, and are undergoing 10 days of isolation from the point of exposure.
Our COVID Safe team will continue to support them during their isolation period, checking on welfare and ensuring they have all they need in order to safely complete their isolation.
Omicron positive case
- must isolate as directed
- may not leave isolation to exercise
- 10 day backwards contact tracing including on flights, ferries and in schools.
Direct Contact of an Omicron positive case
- 10 day isolation from the point of exposure
- may not leave isolation to exercise
- day 0 and day 10 PCR test
- daily lateral flow tests between day 0 and day 10 PCR test
- released from isolation once negative day 10 test received.
Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan, said: "We have said for some time that we have expected the Omicron variant to be on-Island, and following the recent sequencing of approximately 10% of positive PCR tests, we have identified a small number of Omicron positive samples. Direct Contacts have been contacted and told to isolate for ten days from the point of exposure to the positive case, with additional testing during the isolation period.
"We are unable to disclose the number of positive cases and direct contacts due to the confidentiality of patient data and the risk that it would lead to them being publicly identifiable.
"I can confirm that the individuals are well and are following all the relevant guidance. Their welfare is being monitored by the Covid Safe team, who maintain in contact with all positive cases and Direct Contacts.
"We know that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other variants, however, there is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that it causes more severe disease; and the current evidence suggests that a booster vaccine is 70 to 75% effective against the variant, so it is vital that Islanders get their booster with the utmost urgency.
"We are anticipating a rise in cases now that Omicron is in the Island, and soon the majority of cases are likely to be of the Omicron variant. Therefore, being completely up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination schedule is absolutely vital to protect yourself and the General Hospital's capacity. All Islanders aged 18 years and above are being offered a booster dose which helps to protect against illness and hospitalisation.
"We know that two doses of the vaccine alone are less effective against symptomatic disease from Omicron when compared to other strains such as Delta. Particularly if you received your second dose more than three months ago, your immunity will significantly begin to wane down towards 33% for Omicron. While unvaccinated or non-boosted Islanders under the age of 40 years old are less at risk of hospitalisation, there is still a risk of illness, spreading it to vulnerable friends or family, and suffering from complications of Long Covid.
"It is important you make booking your vaccine appointment a priority as it will take a number of days for any dose to take full effect. Vaccination works to protect against infection, severe disease, and death."
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: "We have been anticipating the Omicron variant coming into the Island since Omicron was first identified in the UK and Guernsey, and therefore have prepared measures to specifically manage this variant, and those who are identified with Omicron and their Direct Contacts.
"The policies announced by Ministers yesterday have been prepared in light of the Omicron variant, and it is not necessary to change the date of implementation. I continue to strongly recommend Islanders to wear a face covering in indoor settings, and remind Islanders that this will become mandatory on 4 January. Continuing to take regular LFT tests and know your COVID status is vital in identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, so please register yourself and your family onto a free LFT programme if you have not already done so. And if you are identified as a Direct Contact, please attend your PCR appointment and then take LFTs daily for 10 days.
"It is vital that Islanders take action to protect themselves to prevent additional strain on the hospital capacity. The primary recommendation is for all Islanders to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination schedule which will give you and your family the best protection we can offer against the variant.
"We will continue to monitor the developing situation in Jersey and send positive PCR samples to the UK for sequencing."