PROBABLE first case of Omicron variant detected in Gibraltar on December 9 according to Government but cannot be confirmed for another 24 to 48 hours.
As a result, and with immediate effect, the Contact Tracing Bureau there will be advising all close contacts with this case that they will need to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status.
This will be a temporary measure which the Government is taking on the advice of the Director of Public Health and will be continuously reviewed.
The Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, said: “It is very likely that we will be confirming our first case of the Omicron variant in Gibraltar in the next 24-48 hours as further Genome sequencing takes place on this suspected case.
“I have today advised the Chief Minister that we will be informing all close contacts of the suspected case that they should isolate immediately, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
“I must stress however, that this is a temporary measure which we are taking which will buy us time until I have further data to be able to advise the Government.
“I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise how important it is that people take their booster vaccines.
“There is now emerging evidence to suggest that three doses of the Pfizer vaccine can generate a neutralising effect against the new Omicron variant.”
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: ‘It is with regret that the Government is making this announcement today. I am advised that it is very likely that the suspected case will be confirmed as an Omicron variant shortly.
“The Government will always act on the advice received by its Director of Public Health to ensure that we try and minimise the spread as much as possible of this new variant.
“As I have already repeatedly said, there is no better option for us than a highly vaccinated community. Please, there is now a significant amount of evidence that the efficacy of those initial doses has started to wear off, which is very concerning as we enter the winter months.
“Everyone who is offered a booster dose, which is now being rolled out to all those aged 16 and over, is therefore strongly encouraged to take it.
“Please, follow the advice of Public Health professionals, especially if you are a close contact, and call 111 at the first onset of symptoms, no matter how mild they are. This will help you and help us in our fight against this persistent virus.”
The work of the contact tracing bureau in the case appears to suggest that the person in question was infected whilst at a social function in Spain earlier this month.
As many Gibraltar students attend colleges and universities in the UK, a high percentage return to the Rock for Christmas and it was noted last year that the number of incidents of infection increased significantly at the same time as they were returning.
This year, the Gibraltar Health Authority is arranging for booster jabs to be given to returning students to try to head off a potential spike but it must also be remembered that not everyone in Gibraltar has chosen to be inoculated in the first place.
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