LANCASHIRE is facing 'a tsunami of Omicron cases', the county council's public health boss has warned.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi spoke out after the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust declared a 'critical incident' on Monday evening amid rising Covid hospital admissions and staff testing positive for the infection.

His fears were echoed by Blackburn with Darwen Council's public health director Professor Dominic Harrison who revealed the number of inpatients with coronavirus in the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust's care had doubled between Christmas and New Year.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Karunanithi said the county was at 'the foothills' of an Omicron wave.

He said: “Lancashire is beginning to experience what London did at the beginning of last month and, of course, London is better resourced and the infrastructures are well organised compared to other regions, so we are bracing ourselves for a tsunami of Omicron cases in Lancashire.

“We are clearly seeing a shift from 20s and 30s and 40-year-olds being affected by Omicron to a more 60-plus age group being affected. That is what is causing us concern as well as the immediate concern being absence, staff absence, both in the NHS and education – schools are just going to re-open this week.

“But this is all meaning that we are not able to concentrate on the non-Covid issues. That’s really needing to be addressed immediately as well, so it’s a double challenge we face: not only fighting Covid but all the other pent-up demand and need due to non-Covid issues.”

Prof Harrison said: “The Omicron impacts we are now seeing across the country are precisely those we predicted in late November.

"The rates of Covid in Lancashire and South Cumbria continue to surge and we have not yet seen the peak in cases.

"If we follow London’s pattern we may see the peak in cases between week three to four of January – but it could stretch further. The peak of hospitalisations will come one to three weeks after the peak in cases.

"East Lancashire Hospitals Trust Covid in-patients doubled between Christmas and New Year.

"We already have hospitals in Lancashire who have declared an internal critical incident, meaning that whilst they are open for urgent and emergency cases, they will need to divert staff from elective care to urgent and Covid care.

"All of Lancashire’s local authority areas are impacted by the current surge but Blackburn with Darwen remains below the regional and national average. We have maintained this position since August 2021.”