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Do Social Distancing Screens Protect Against the Omicron Variant?

Posted By:

Office Screens UK

Date:

07/12/2021

Reading Time:

11 Mins

Do Social Distancing Screens Protect Against the Omicron Variant?

After a summer and autumn where COVID-19 was in the news relatively little in comparison to the height of the pandemic, the recent appearance of a new variant of concern, Omicron, has us reinstating some social distancing measures as we assess the potential danger of this new Coronavirus mutation. 

What is the Omicron variant and why should I be worried about it?

On 26 November 2021, a new variant of Coronavirus, B.1.1.529, was designated of concern by the WHO and named Omicron. The Omicron variant appears to have begun spreading in South Africa, where in mid-November a few hundred cases were detected. By 26th November, when the WHO labelled Omicron a variant of concern, the number of cases in South Africa had risen to 3,402. By 1 December, this number was 8,561. Omicron has since been detected in more than 35 countries around the world, including here in the UK. At the time we published this blog, there were 246 Omicron cases reported in the UK, and those numbers are rising steadily.

The Omicron variant differs in several ways from previous variants of COVID-19. Firstly, evidence in South Africa suggests that it spreads even more rapidly than the Delta variant, which caused devastation in India and has been the most common variant detected here in the UK since its arrival. When the Delta variant began its rapid spread in the UK, case numbers doubled roughly every five days. It will take some weeks for scientists in the UK to confirm whether or not Omicron is more effective at replicating itself - though quoted in an article in the Guardian, Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, estimates that ‘Omicron can infect three to six times as many people as Delta, over the same time period’.

Evidence also suggests that the Omicron variant is more virulent than previous variants, meaning it is more likely to be able to reinfect those who have already had Coronavirus and who would normally benefit from a certain level of immunity. This has caused many to call into question the efficacy of Covid vaccines, although experts strongly believe that vaccines will still provide a good level of protection against the Omicron variant.

The rise of Omicron cases in the UK during the winter season when the NHS is already more challenged has prompted the UK government to update Covid regulations, and we have seen a return to some measures which were initially commonplace during the first outbreaks of Coronavirus. It is now a requirement to wear masks in shops and on public transport, and in schools and colleges for pupils aged 11 and over. There have also been changes to international travel regulations. Experts are suggesting that we all take additional precautions to protect ourselves, our families, our friends and our colleagues until we understand the full implications of the Omicron variant.


How can I protect my employees from the Omicron variant?

There are three things to consider when working out how you will protect your workforce from a fast-spreading and potentially dangerous Coronavirus variant such as Omicron:

Work Adaptively

If your office typically works in a very collaborative way, social distancing measures can make this a challenge. Products such as linked four-way screens can create a ‘meeting’ environment that’s safe for collaborative work, but you might also want to think about online digital solutions to minimise face-to-face contact during surge events or when a dangerous new variant appears.

Segmenting your Workforce

An excellent way to manage a busy office during the pandemic is to divide your staff into ‘teams’ based on who they most frequently need to work alongside; then you can stagger the days that each team is in the office, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 across teams. 

Social Distancing Furniture

If your office is open plan, installing social distancing screens and dividers can help to prevent the transmission of respiratory droplets between staff but still allow them to communicate easily for smooth collaboration and communication. Desk banks in particular are high-transmission environments for spreading Coronavirus between employees if one of them falls sick. 

Why are social distancing screens effective in protecting against Omicron?

As with other variants, Omicron is transferred from person-to-person through tiny droplets expelled from the nose or mouth when someone sneezes, coughs or even breathes. Social distancing measures are in place to prevent transmission from person to person as these droplets can be transferred directly when in standing close contact. 

Social distancing screens are useful in offices, schools, public environments and customer-facing businesses. A Perspex, acrylic or glass panel acts as a barrier to Omicron droplets in the air, allowing two people to interact more safely with a social distancing partition between them.

It’s important to remember that wiping down these panels with sanitiser or bleach products regularly is essential to provide maximum protection against germs and viruses.

FRONTIER® Glazed Office Screen Desk Dividers

FRONTIER® Glazed Office Screen Desk Dividers

ACHOO Modular Desk Partitions

ACHOO® Crystal Clear Modular Desk Screens 4 Bay Workstation Dividers


What are the best products to buy to combat the Omicron variant?

There are a wide variety of different social distancing screens available, which one you choose depends on the specific requirements of your work environment. We’ve laid out the styles you can choose from:

Desk Divider & Reception Screens

Perspex desk screens are designed to break up large banks of desks into smaller, individual working ‘cubicles’. These partitions can clip or screw into a desk, or sit freestanding on top of it, to form protective barrier between employees, or between staff and customers. Installing Perspex® acrylic or glass desk divider screens is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to introduce social distancing partitions to your workplace. For retail and hospitality venues or receptions, these panels allow safe interaction with members of the public. Models with cut-out hatches are also available for easy and safe transactions.

The transparent finish of the acrylic or glass also allows light to pass through your office, as well as enabling employees to continue to communicate effectively, maintaining a bright, airy and friendly atmosphere while forming a hygienic barrier to help prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus.

Freestanding Screens

These versatile social distancing screens are available in desktop or floor-standing varieties. They require no installation or set up, they simply stand in place wherever you need them most. Floor-standing Perspex screens can be connected together using the linking strips included, making them a great way to create pop-up meeting rooms or workspaces within a larger, open-plan office. Creating smaller spaces can be a key tool for minimising contact in your office, reducing the chance for the virus to spread.

Mobile Partitions

Mobile Perspex screens are our most popular full-length social distancing partition, thanks to their practicality and flexibility. Easy to move around due to the lockable castor wheels fixed to their base, these screens can easily be rolled around your workplace and locked into place wherever you need them. They can be used to create temporary meeting spaces or divide up ‘zones’ in offices; to segment off practical areas such as printers or kettles; between patients at medical facilities; or between students in classrooms.

Hanging Panels

Ideal for offices that are short on desk or floor space, in hospitality venues such as bars, pubs or restaurants, in salons and hairdressers and in retail spaces; hanging Perspex screens offer an excellent alternative to other types of social distancing screen. These Perspex® or lightweight plastic panels are designed to be suspended from the ceiling in place of a fixed desk divider or reception counter screen. 

Roller Screens

As we negotiate our way through the ever-changing landscape of the Coronavirus pandemic, our restrictions and social distancing requirements are always being updated. At times, stricter measures will be required due to the rise of a new variant, such as Omicron. As a result, choosing a product that’s easy to store away when you don’t need it is a good idea, especially if you are short on space. These clever partitions are made from lightweight 300μm-thick transparent plastic and can be pulled up and rolled away easily, just like a traditional roller blind. Available in a floor standing roll up screen and desktop clear banner screen , they’re ideal for adapting to changing circumstances - plus they’re very affordable so they won’t break the bank.

For more information about any of our social distancing products, please contact us or call our team on 01234 676767.

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