Omicron in Portsmouth: New variant of coronavirus detected in city as council leader fears 'worrying surge' in infections

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THE first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has now been recorded in Portsmouth as the city faces a ‘very worrying’ surge in infections, the leader of the city council has said.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson confirmed the case was reported yesterday as the city, he said, was on course to become the upper tier authority area with the greatest level of infection in the country.

Over the last seven days the city has recorded more cases than at any other point in the pandemic, led by surging levels in schools and Cllr Vernon-Jackson this was putting 'real pressure' on already strained services.

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‘The figures are very worrying,’ he said. ‘The rate has gone up by 30 per cent in a week and we are now at 712 cases per 100,000 people.

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‘The city council will work with QA Hospital, the NHS and all public services to make sure residents are protected at this difficult time.’

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He said infection rates at schools, particularly primary schools, were ‘very concerning’ and called on the government to reintroduce measures in schools, including mask wearing, in a bid to reduce the spread.

He added that he expected Omicron would soon become the dominant strain nationally.

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‘The first case was found yesterday and the worrying thing is the lack of real information we have about the effect it will have,’ he said. ‘But what we have seen is that most people in hospital with Covid are unvaccinated.

‘People need to make sure they've had their vaccine and their booster.’

Over the next few days the vaccine van is due to be based in Cosham; at the Mountbatten Centre in Hilsea and at Asda in Fratton offering walk-in vaccinations.

The city council’s public health team has also released a statement, confirming that the UK Health Security Agency has informed it about the variant.

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It said: ‘As community transmission of Omicron is now occurring in the UK, it is possible that there are other cases in the city. This particular case is linked to travel.

‘Omicron is a new variant of coronavirus and all the current prevention measures we are asked to follow for Covid-19 remain the best protection our residents can take, so remember hands, face, space.

‘We encourage residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible – whether that's the first, second or booster dose to protect themselves and others. Wear face coverings in shops and on public transport and consider wearing them in any enclosed or crowded place - especially as many of you will be out and about Christmas shopping. Remember to take rapid lateral flow tests before a period of high risk - before you mix with people in crowded indoor places, visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if infected with Covid-19, or attend a large event. Minimise the number of people you see, especially over the Christmas period.’

The council added that UKHSA is following up all travellers returning from the Red List countries asking them to self-isolate and take a PCR test. All possible, probable, and confirmed cases are contact traced, and any close contacts are required to take a PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status or age.

Help with self-isolation can be found on our website: