Lancashire's Directors of Public Health have urged the public to take the threat of Omicron seriously, as they welcome the government's decision to move to Plan B.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England will move to Plan B measures, as outlined in the Covid-19 Autumn/Winter Plan.
It comes as Omicron is spreading rapidly across the UK – with several cases confirmed in Lancashire and more expected.
As seen in previous waves, a swift rise in cases can lead to a rapid rise in hospitalisations.
The move to Plan B is intended help to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and reduce the chances of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, while buying time to deliver more boosters.
While it is likely there is some level of reduced vaccine effectiveness against Omicron, it is still too early to determine the extent of this, and more time is needed to study the variant.
The new measures mean that from 10 Dec, mandatory face covering rules are extended to most indoor settings but will not include hospitality settings.
From 13 Dec, people will be advised to work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace.
Finally, from 15 Dec, people will need to show their NHS COVID Pass to enter places where large crowds gather, such as nightclubs or large sporting events. This will mean a requirement to show vaccination status or a recent negative Covid test to enter certain high-risk settings.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said: "Getting vaccinated is still the best thing people can do to protect themselves. I strongly encourage anyone who is eligible for a first, second or booster vaccination to get it without delay.
"At this moment in time vaccinations alone are sadly not enough, which is why every one of us needs to take personal responsibility by following the national Covid-19 advice.
"We must take the threat of Omicron seriously.
"It is understandable that people want to get back to normality after living with Covid-19 for so long, but only through collective action can we overcome this latest setback."
Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s Director of Public Health, said the measures in Plan B are "necessary" and will help to prevent further spread of Covid-19.
Prof Harrison said: “For the last two months or so a number of Directors of Public Health across England, including myself, have been advocating for stricter infection control measures this autumn.
"We have felt particularly strongly about this since the highly transmissible Omicron variant was identified and UK cases were confirmed.
“The Plan B measures announced, in my view, are necessary and will help to prevent further spread of Covid. They could also suppress transmission of other winter viruses, reducing pressure on our health and social care system, giving the NHS an extra chance to manage demand over the winter and to catch up on waiting lists."
Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health for Blackpool Council, added: “For some time now I have been recommending that people exercise more caution than was mandated – like wearing face coverings on public transport and in crowded places and working from home where possible.
"The arrival of Omicron means it is more important than ever that people take these basic precautions.
“I think the government’s decision to move to Plan B is the right one and support all the measures that are outlined within it."
For more information visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus