Boris Johnson plans to 'ride out' Omicron wave with no more curbs
January 5, 2022 9:22 am
Boris Johnson [Source: BBC]
Boris Johnson says he hopes England can “ride out” the current wave of COVID-19 without further restrictions.
But he acknowledged parts of the NHS would feel “temporarily overwhelmed” amid a surge of Omicron cases.
The prime minister said there was a “good chance” he would not impose fresh measures and would recommend continuing the government’s “Plan B” strategy in England to ministers on Wednesday.
He also announced plans for 100,000 critical workers to take daily tests.
The testing regime from 10 January will be for key industries including food processing, transport and the border force, in order to reduce the spread of the virus to colleagues.
The PM said at a Downing Street briefing he will recommended England sticks with Plan B restrictions, when cabinet ministers meet to discuss extending them.
The measures, which include working from home where possible, mask wearing in most public settings and Covid passports in some venues, are currently due to run out on 28 January.
As daily UK Covid case figures exceeded 200,000 for the first time with the spread of the Omicron variant, the PM said people who believed the pandemic to be over were “profoundly wrong”.
The daily cases include a backlog of two days of cases from Wales and four days in Northern Ireland.
He said this was a moment for caution but also that the UK’s position was different from previous waves, as Omicron is milder than previous variants and booster vaccines have been rolled out.
Mr Johnson said the country had a chance to “ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again”.
“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus,” he said.
Mr Johnson acknowledged the weeks ahead would be “challenging” with “some services disrupted by staff absences”. But he promised to “fortify” the NHS to withstand pressure.
The assurances come as many industries are facing staffing problems over the number of workers self isolating with Covid or as contacts of cases, while many people have struggled to get tests over Christmas amid supply and demand issues.
The government would continue to watch what happens in Covid data, but he said the current Plan B level of restrictions in England – like compulsory face coverings in most indoor public venues – were the correct and balanced approach.
“It has to balance the the effect on people’s lives and livelihoods of lockdowns, which are painful, which take away people’s life chances and which do a great deal of social damage, damage to people’s mental health as well as damage to the economy,” Mr Johnson said.
He said the health service was moving into a “war footing” with plans to set up coronavirus surge hubs at hospitals across England in preparation for a potential wave of admissions.