Dr Sandra Husbands
Dr Sandra Husbands: all the hygiene measures ‘work more effectively collectively than if you just do one.’

People are encouraged to follow key public health advice to avoid getting a dose of Covid before Christmas” and to protect people from the new Omicron variant of the virus.

Sandra Husbands,  the director of public health for Hackney and the City of London, advised people to stay vigilant about wearing face coverings, washing hands scrupulously, and when coughing to use a tissue and dispose of it safely.

She advised people to wear face coverings in “any enclosed crowded space”, not just those on the government’s list – and to be extra careful if they gather before Christmas.

Parties or family gatherings at Christmas are currently not restricted by the government.

Dr Husbands said: “I would urge people to take  precautions – all these measures apply whether it’s a Christmas party, a shopping  trip, or your work place, and the logical thing to do would be to reduce the amount of contact that you have with other people.

“But if your Christmas party’s booked, you can’t get your deposit back and you’re planning to go just test yourself in advance, ask other people to make sure they get tested in advance, wear a face covering as much as possible – and hand hygiene is still really important.

She stressed the importance of good ventilation  to stop the spread of the virus if people have to meet.

“Most importantly, if  the venue is not well-ventilated and it’s crowded, then  it is putting everyone at higher risk and the last thing you want  is a nice dose of Covid before Christmas and before you then visit your friends and family,” she warned.

People should be: “ventilating indoor spaces as much as possible or meeting outdoors as much as possible.”

Dr Husbands suggested people should take regular or even daily lateral flow tests so they can isolate swiftly.

She said all the hygiene measures “work more effectively collectively than if you just do one.”

People are also urged to get vaccinated to give them protection from the virus.

Currently 112,280 City and Hackney residents have not been vaccinated against Covid at all,  whilst 61 per cent, or 178,010, have had one jab.

According to NHS figures 126,665 have yet to get a second vaccine and 163,625, or 63 per cent of residents, have been double jabbed against the virus.

Boosters have been given to 43,919 people.

All adults will be offered a booster by January next year, and the gap between the second vaccination and the booster will be reduced from six to three months.

There is also a push to get more young people vaccinated.

Dr Husand’s guidance comes after the government announced “Plan B” to stem the spread of Omicron in the community.

They include the extension of mandatory face masks rules in most indoor places, including churches, shops and theatres,  as well as public transport, which had already been announced (From Friday 10 December).

People are also asked to work from home if possible from Monday (13 December) and they will need Covid passports to go to nightclubs and large venues – if Parliament agrees.

Currently seven cases of Omicron have been diagnosed in Hackney and the City. None of those people are being treated in hospital in Hackney, although it is possible that there is one case in hospital in Newham, the outbreak control board  learnt.

Two of the cases are linked to travel.

“There’s definitely community spread in London and there’s barely a borough that hasn’t got a case,” said Dr Husbands.

Dr Husbands said if anyone has Covid symptoms including  a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a change in taste in smell or a sore throats or runny noses should take precautions: “So even if you think it’s a cold or you think it’s flu you stay at home,  isolate yourself and get a PCR test.”

The push to get more people vaccinated is continuing  as cases are rising in Hackney, especially in the younger age groups, with the highest number in the 50-59 year-olds.

It is predicted there will be a peak of Omicron in the two boroughs, Hackney and the City,  in next few weeks.

Details about places to get vaccinated are available on both council’s websites:  Coronavirus information and support | Hackney Council and COVID-19 – City of London and from the NHS: Find a walk-in coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site – NHS (www.nhs.uk)