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Public urged not to ‘panic’ over Omicron emergence, as Executive say follow health measures to avoid further restrictions

The Executive has urged people not to “panic” over the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 but again emphasised the need for people to “follow the simple steps” of health guidance to help avoid further restrictions.

They warned Omicron could have “serious implications for our health system” and said “maximum adherence” to the rules in place “is necessary to mitigate against the need for more severe restrictions”.

The statement from ministers said the Omicron variant is “potentially very serious” and said following advice around mask wearing, regular testing and vaccination will keep pressure off the health service and “get us through to the other side of Christmas".

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Earlier on Thursday the First Minister Paul Givan said there are a range of options being considered to deal with the variant and said it will “become a challenge for us in Northern Ireland early in the new year.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill warned the Omicron variant is “going to cause difficulties for our health service but also economically”.

In the statement from ministers, the Executive set out a range of measures the public can take to help manage the spread of the new variant, including getting vaccinated and taking up the offer of a booster.

"We remind the public that the use of face coverings is a mandatory requirement in certain settings, not an optional extra,” they said.

“We call again today on every member of the workforce who can work from home to do so.

“We are asking everyone to take regular Covid-19 lateral flow tests, particularly if you are planning to mix with other people.

“This will be a crucial element in a package of measures that will help to stop transmission of the virus in the community.”

The Executive said medical and scientific officials are “monitoring the situation very closely” and said the autumn and winter contingency plans have already been activated.

“Engagement has been taking place with administrations and public health officials across these islands,” they added.

“We await the emergence of further data in the coming days, which will allow for a scientific assessment of the variant and the impact it is likely to have.

“However, the evidence from elsewhere indicates that Omicron has potential to spread rapidly. That means it could have very serious implications for our health system, which is already under significant pressure.”

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