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Omicron: NI’s chief medical officer ‘more concerned than I have been at any stage in the pandemic’

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Chief medical officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Chief medical officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Omicron cases are expected to peak by mid-January.

Omicron cases are expected to peak by mid-January.

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Chief medical officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Northern Ireland’s predicted Omicron peak could see hospital pressures “several times worse” than those experienced last winter, the chief scientific adviser has said.

On Wednesday, the Public Health Agency (PHA) emphasised the need for everyone to take steps to protect themselves and those around them as the number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has reached 151 in Northern Ireland.

Professor Ian Young said he expects Omicron to become the dominant variant before the end of the year and it is likely case numbers will peak by the middle of next month.

It comes as chief medical officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, warned “potentially significantly additional measures” may be required to reduce the impact of the impending Omicron wave.

Speaking at a briefing with the media on Wednesday afternoon, Sir Michael said: “I think there is cause for very significant concern.

“At this time, we still don’t have some key elements of information, such as the number of people who get Omicron who end up in hospital, but I have to say I am more concerned at this stage than I have been at any stage in the pandemic.”

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Prof Young said data is expected next week which will provide a clearer picture on the possible number of people who will be hospitalised with Omicron, which is now believed to have a doubling time of two days.

Until then, he said it is impossible to predict the severity of the Omicron wave or rule out further restrictions.

Sir Michael said the public must now play its part in reducing the impact of the Omicron wave by getting vaccinated or getting their booster dose, wearing face coverings, limiting social contacts and meeting up outdoors where possible.

He said: “Those are the things we really must focus on, as to whether or not those measures will be sufficient, I think it is reasonable given the current growth to be concerned that additional measures, potentially significantly additional measures, may be required.”



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