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01st December 2021

O is for Omicron

Abi Spence, outlines what we currently know about the new COVID-19 strain and what providers can do now.

So, it’s happening. Groundhog Day? Well kind of! Boosters are flowing, the NHS booking system has a queue of 5 mins or more... and let’s just say ‘O’ is casting a shadow over the season of goodwill.

Those that were hesitant seem to have felt the omicron nudge and booked a first jab, second jab or booster. Nothing like a sense of urgency to see this country pull out of the traps.

I was impressed with the conference with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam et al. There was no mumbling or skirting around. The variant is one of concern.

Like the Delta variant, it may be that it can break through current vaccinations, but the vaccine would stop serious ill health, hospitalisation and death (I’ll take that). They do know that boosters get the immune response back up.

Only testing and epidemiology will tell us the reality, so measures are in place to wear face coverings again in shops and on public transport and boosters are the way to go for now.

So, what difference will this make to you in your setting? We know that:

  • Everyone over 18 will be offered a booster dose
  • Boosters will be given at least three months after the second dose (and in priority order) - remember previously this was a six-month gap. 12–15-year-olds will be offered a second dose, at least 12 weeks after the first, severely immunosuppressed people will be offered a fourth dose
  • Whenever you are called for a booster, we know that it can cause an immune response. This is short lived usually, among other things it can offer some flu like symptoms for a few days. The full list can be found here -https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/safety-and-side-effects/
  • Some people who have the booster have no noticeable changes to the way they feel but others may not be well enough to come to work
  • Ensure staff notify you when/if they are receiving the booster or a fourth dose for immune compromised staff, to factor in that they may not be at work for a day or so
  • Currently the booster is not mandatory
  • Be mindful, some staff may have caring responsibilities for young people receiving a second dose
  • Staff need to follow the guidance from Tuesday 30 November for wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport with or without people using the service
  • Overseas trips require a PCR on day two of their return and isolation until a negative result is received

The boosters are an important part of keeping everyone safe, but they come after the backdrop of mandatory vaccination (2 doses). Be prepared to answer queries of staff around boosters. The latest press conference with scientists and the deputy medical officer can be seen here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2c4UGeEaGbk

Over the coming days civil servants and NHS administrators will have their quills out like Bob Cratchit in a Christmas Carol hurriedly updating guidance for the sector (I do feel for them, there are going to be some late nights!)

As soon as we have an update, we will let you know.

Further reading

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

COVID-19 vaccination: booster dose resources - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-booster-dose-resources/covid-19-vaccination-a-guide-to-booster-vaccination

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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