THE head of public health in Dorset has explained why the county has seen a spike in cases recently.

Coronavirus rates across the Dorset and BCP Council regions are currently higher than the national average.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Public Health Dorset (PHD) director, Sam Crowe said: “What we are seeing at the moment is that there are parts of the population that haven’t had the infection the first time around, so they are still susceptible.

“And there are still pockets of the population locally that haven’t had their first or second dose, although it’s small numbers.

“But I think the higher prevalence (of cases) that we are seeing at the moment is because we just haven’t been hit as hard compared to previous waves.”

Since the middle of autumn cases have hovered around 450 and 600 cases per 100,000.

Despite a higher case rate, hospitalisations remain at a reduced rate compared to previous spikes.

“It’s not going up anywhere as quickly as in previous waves,” said Mr Crowe.

“If you look back at January 2021 we had quite similar infection rates among the two councils but we had nearly 600 people in hospital.

“We have similar infection rates across the county today but about 90 to 100 people in hospital currently and that’s the impact of the vaccine programme.”

The JCVI announced on Monday, November 29, that booster vaccines should be offered to people over the age of 18.

However, the timing at which younger people will be offered a third dose will depend on a number of logistical issues, including a local area's ability - in terms of workforce and vaccine supply - to deliver the vaccine.

Schools are also being told to extend Covid measures until Christmas, when they will be reviewed, alongside implementing mask wearing in secondary schools.

Mr Crowe said: “Our recommendation is for schools to continue with those additional measures until the end of term - until Christmas and then we’ll review that again.

“It’s a continual conversation with schools and they’ve been brilliant all the way through this pandemic and we’re continuing to work with them on an individual basis.”

As cases of the new Omicron variant are identified and its effects are researched, PHD are confident in their approach to tackling any future outbreak.

Mr Crowe said: “I think at first this is something that will be dealt with nationally.

“But we do have robust plans in place to be able to test sections of the community really quickly if we need to and those plans have been exercised regularly over the past few months.

“I am confident that if we do need to step up locally we’ve got the plans in place and the people on hand ready to go and start to work with communities if we need to.”

With the discovery of the new Omicron variant in Britain, new coronavirus precautions are being implemented across the country.

Over the next few weeks PHD will be recommending a return to some of the original measures including wearing masks, keeping your distance and using lateral flow testing if you’re mixing or going into crowded indoor spaces.

Mr Crowe said: “Coronavirus is quite an unpredictable virus so even with the Delta variant - which is the predominant variant that we have in our community at the moment - you can never tell how it’s going to affect you.

“That’s why it’s so important to do everything you can to reduce transmission.”