Covid-19: Health boss optimistic Omicron peak has passed

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Dr Mike Gogarty, director of public health at Essex County Council, says "things do look positive"

The director of public health in an area hit hard by Covid infections says he is "optimistic that we have passed the peak" of the Omicron wave.

Essex recorded some of the highest infection rates in the country throughout the pandemic - including during the Delta wave last winter.

But every area of the county has seen rates fall week-on-week, with each one seeing more than a 20% reduction.

Dr Mike Gogarty said: "Broadly speaking things do look positive."

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has led to infections rising to record levels, but government figures show numbers are falling.

However, in England the figures exclude those who have been re-infected, something that has become increasingly common with the rise of the Omicron variant.

'Good place'

Harlow in Essex has the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in the East, with 1,818 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 9 January.

This was a 26% fall from the previous week, but above the England-wide average of 1,593 cases per 100,000 people.

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Dr Gogarty urged those who have not been vaccinated or taken up a booster to do so

Dr Gogarty said: "I'm optimistic that we have passed the peak, rates have been very high in Essex but are now dropping quite quickly."

He said the schools returning could "be a hiccup" but infection rates were reducing in all age groups.

"Rates are dropping in older groups, which are the ones we are most concerned about, and hospital admissions appear to be going down," he said.

Dr Gogarty added: "In people who haven't been vaccinated, who haven't had the booster, it can be a much more serious disease, and those people can end up in intensive care.

"Cases are very high, but it's only a problem if that translates into serious illness and at the moment, fortunately, due to the success of the booster programme, those high rates are not translating into serious illness.

"So broadly speaking, we are in a pretty good place for this time of year."

The director of public health is due to retire, with Lucy Wightman, who has the same role in Northamptonshire, taking up the job in April.

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