Boris Johnson sticks with Plan B in bid to ‘ride out’ Omicron without lockdown

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Boris Johnson sticks with Plan B in bid to ‘ride out’ Omicron without lockdown
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  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019

Boris Johnson has said there is a “good chance” he will not have to impose fresh restrictions to tackle the massive wave of Omicron cases, as he backed sticking with Plan B measures despite warnings the NHS is under significant pressure from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister confirmed he would advocate to his Cabinet the need to stick with work-from-home guidance, mask-wearing and Covid health passes to “ride out” the wave of infections but warned that anyone who believes the battle against the disease is over is “profoundly wrong”.

With daily lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in England and Scotland exceeding 200,000, Mr Johnson acknowledged now is the time for the “utmost caution” but argued the booster rollout has given substantial protection to the nation.

 (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“So together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again,” he told a Downing Street press conference on the eve of the review date for the restrictions announced four weeks ago.

“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

The Prime Minister accepted the weeks ahead are going to be “challenging” and said “some services will be disrupted by staff absences” as he pledged to “fortify” the NHS to withstand the pressures and protect supply chains.

Under the measures, he said 100,000 “critical workers” will get lateral flow tests on every working day starting on Monday.

“As our NHS moves to a war footing, I will be recommending to Cabinet tomorrow that we continue with Plan B,” he added.

“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.”

Pressed on how likely he things it is that further restrictions will be needed, Mr Johnson said “it depends to be absolutely frank” on whether the strain first identified in South Africa behaves in a similar way to it has there and “how quickly it blows through”.

“I would say we have a good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions and without the need certainly for a lockdown,” he added.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty acknowledged that “some hospitals, some areas of the country” will come under “very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks” with high numbers of staff isolating over infections compounding the typical winter pressures.

The press conference was held on the day a further 218,724 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in England and Scotland.

It was the first time the daily recorded figure has passed 200,000, though the number will have been inflated by some delayed reporting from over the holiday period.

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