The government will not bring in more England Covid restrictions at a crunch meeting tomorrow and the country has a “chance to ride out this omicron wave” without a new lockdown, Boris Johnson has said.
Johnson said the NHS will move onto a “war footing” as Covid cases continue to hit record highs and that the current Covid curbs provide the “right balance”.
The Prime Minister said “the weeks ahead are going to be challenging, both here in the UK and across the world”, but that the country’s fast booster rollout should be enough to keep the NHS from becoming completely overwhelmed.
Covid cases are now at around 200,000 a day across the UK, with hospitalisations also now increasing at a fast rate.
However, the data shows that people in hospital are not needing ventilation or intensive care as much as previous waves due to the country’s vaccine protection and Omicron being less severe.
“There is no escaping the fact that some services will be disrupted by staff absences, but we have been working through Christmas to prepare for this wherever possible,” Johnson said.
“And if we all play our part in containing the spread of this virus the disruptions we face can be far less severe than a national lockdown, with all the devastation that would bring for livelihoods and the life chances of our children. So the government is acting to protect critical national services, keep supply chains open, and fortify our NHS to withstand the pressures ahead.”
The government will be offering more readily available lateral flow test to 100,00 key workers, while also increasing NHS capacity through the reopening of Nightingale hospitals and recruiting more volunteers.
Johnson said: “As our NHS moves to a war footing, I will be recommending to Cabinet tomorrow that we continue with Plan B, because the public have responded and changed their behaviour, your behaviour, buying valuable time to get boosters in arms and help the NHS to cope with the Omicron wave.
“But there are still almost 9 million people eligible, who haven’t had their booster, And it’s absolutely heart-breaking that as many as 90 per cent of those in intensive care with Covid have not had their booster, and over 60 per cent of those in Intensive Care, who have Covid, have not had any vaccination at all.”