THE DIRECTOR of Public Health Dorset has said we are ‘likely to see an increase in covid cases’ over winter.

Sam Crowe said while a rise in cases is likely, the vaccine is protecting a lot of of people from getting ill and has encouraged everyone to get their second dose.

He said: “We are likely to see a rise in cases because it is a respiratory virus and more people will be indoors with increased mixing.”

Thirty people are currently in hospital in Dorset with covid, but Mr Crowe said this would be 400 to 500 without the vaccine.

Mr Crowe doesn’t think the government will need to introduce a lockdown at Christmas but he said: “There is a Plan B in place meaning that we could start to see the reintroduction of extra measures, such as face masks, working from home and using covid passes for larger events, for those who have had two doses of the vaccine.

“I think looking at the data we will see cases rise a little bit in late autumn and then they will start to come down in December and January.”

Mr Crowe recommends that people aged 50 and over get their booster jab when offered because their immunity might be starting to fall and having a third jab is the best way to increase antibodies.

In terms of the national picture, Mr Crowe said: “Dorset’s covid rates are similar to the national average. Further up the country rates might be higher but were not seeing that here. So, we’re doing okay, very similar to other councils in the southwest as well.”

“All viruses mutate regularly as they get passed from person to person, it's something that just happens in the background but we are being quite careful about watching out for new variants that could be more transmissible or more importantly be less responsive to the vaccine.

“Everytime a PCR test is done that’s sent off and there is a certain amount of screening that goes on to make sure that it's not a variant that we would need to take rapid action on.

"Under both councils we've got plans to go very quickly with testing in the community, so-called surge testing which has happened in a few parts of the country over the past year and a half.

"We've never needed to stand that up so far but if there was any suspicion that there we had a variant that was starting to spread quickly then we would identify the community most affected and we would move mobile testing units in to start to get people tested as quickly as possible and maintain it."

Winter is also likely to see an increase in other viruses such as the flu.

Mr Crowe said: “If you think about winter coming, the only big difference this winter is that we're mixing more with people and there is a higher risk of viruses like flu, so the other message that we're putting out at the moment is to encourage people to take up the offer of flu vaccines as well.

"If you're eligible you'll get notified of a free flu jab which tends to be over 50s, people with clinical conditions and they're also vaccinating school children this year with a nasal spray, so look out for that offer and if you do get offered a flu jab I would say please do take advantage of it because not only is it a way of protecting you and your family but it also takes the pressure off of health and care services.

"You can imagine if you're dealing with covid and we had a bad flu winter that’s pressure that we just don’t need and obviously it can lead to serious illness and sometimes death so the flu vaccine is a really effective way of protecting against that."