People in Oxfordshire are being urged to get vaccinated and take extra precautions to help them reach the festive season free of COVID.
Cases in the county are now higher than they have ever before, with the rate last week (16 December) standing at 753.6 per 100,000.
The new Omicron variant is playing an increasing role in the pandemic both locally and nationally.
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “The latest data indicates that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than previous variants, with cases doubling every two to three days.
“As of today, everyone aged 18 or over can book their booster jab and it is very important that they do so. This is one of the major things we can do to protect ourselves against all variants of COVID, including Omicron.
“Our NHS partners are working hard behind the scenes to increase the availability of appointments so that the options for people to access a COVID-19 booster increase. More GPs and pharmacies will be offering jabs in the run up to New Year’s Eve and they aim to offer booster jabs to around 230,000 people in the next three weeks. We know the national online booking system is extremely busy, but please be persistent as more appointment opportunities will be added.
“Getting tested regularly also remains of huge importance, especially with cases in Oxfordshire currently being at such a high level. This means you can visit a relative at Christmas with greater assurance that you are not going to give them an unwelcome festive gift in the shape of COVID.
“We also continue to encourage people to draw on that huge catalogue of knowledge we have built up about how to manage the risk of COVID in our daily lives, from wearing face coverings in crowded places to washing hands regularly and ventilating rooms with fresh air.
“However, one of the most important things we can do is to take care with the overall number of people we mix with. If you mix with fewer people, you have reduced chances of contracting the virus. This is why the government has enacted its Plan B asking people to work from home where they can. By combining such behaviour with getting vaccinated and testing regularly, we will all give ourselves a greater chance of having a COVID-free Christmas.
“There is just over a week until Christmas now – and this is the time to negotiate our way through as safely as we can to protect ourselves and help stop the spread of the virus. Let’s make this Christmas one to remember - for all the right reasons.”