Two possible cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected in the Isle of Man.
The two cases were identified through PCR tests from individuals in the community. The variant of concern genotyping carried out in the Noble's Hospital laboratory has identified both cases as possible Omicron. One individual requested a PCR following a positive lateral flow test, while the other was tested after becoming symptomatic. Both individuals have recent travel history.
Whole genome sequencing will be required to confirm whether these cases are the Omicron variant. This will take place in an accredited UK Health Security Agency laboratory in the UK.
The two individuals are now being managed as Omicron cases - self-isolating for 10 days along with everyone in both households, with additional testing being offered.
The contact tracing team will notify any close contacts and provide them with the necessary guidance, including monitoring for symptoms and taking daily lateral flow tests for seven days.
Chief Minister Alfred Cannan MHK said: 'It was always a case of 'when' and not 'if' Omicron would make its way to the Island. Thanks to the team at the Noble's Hospital lab we have been made aware of these two possible cases, enabling us to act swiftly, ensuring that both individuals and their households are isolated. I hope both individuals make a speedy recovery and I thank them for acting responsibly.
'Given the concern around the new Omicron variant we raised our response to level 2 of the COVID-19 Winter Framework at the end of November. It is important that everyone takes these additional mitigations seriously – get a PCR test if you have symptoms, take lateral flow tests twice a week and before events and gatherings, wear a face covering on public transport and when in crowded and enclosed spaces, and if eligible get both your flu and COVID vaccine and booster.'
Director of Public Health Dr Henrietta Ewart said: 'The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency shows that vaccines are less effective against the Omicron variant, which is a concern. But they still offer some protection against severe illness and so reduce the likelihood of people needing hospital treatment. The encouraging sign is that the initial evidence shows a vaccine booster could stop around 75% of people developing symptoms if they catch Omicron.
'Vaccine boosters are now open to anyone aged 45 and over. It just needs to have been three months since a second dose. Booking is easy and can be done online and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward and ensure they have the fullest protection.'
The Chief Minister added: 'We will continue to keep the situation under close review and consider what next steps, if any, we may need to take.'
If anyone has any COVID-19 symptoms they are reminded to isolate immediately and book a PCR test online or by calling 111 – regardless of whether a negative lateral flow has been returned.