England must stick
with ‘Plan B’ to protect
NHS; says Boris Johnson

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LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that England will continue with its Plan B Covid measures amid growing pressures on the NHS. According to a BBC report,

the prime minister said it would be “folly” to think the pandemic was over and pressure on hospitals would be “considerable” over the coming weeks. However, he added the country was in a “much better position” than this time last year thanks to vaccinations.

The PM stressed Omicron looks less severe than other variants, despite it being “incredibly transmissible”. Speaking during a visit to a vaccination centre in Aylesbury, he said the “mixture of things we’re doing at the moment” were the correct measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

He said this included continuing with Plan B, which includes mask wearing in certain indoor settings and guidance to work from home where possible, ensuring it is taken “seriously” by people.

These measures are due to expire on 26 January, although they are expected to be reviewed on Wednesday. Mr Johnson added people should be “sensible” and take a rapid test before going to see people they do not usually meet, as well as getting their first, second and booster jabs.

“We’ve got to make sure we look after our NHS in any way that we can” he said, adding: “I appreciate the pressures that our hospitals are under.”

As NHS trusts warn of staffing pressures, Mr Johnson said the government was looking at what it could do to “move people into those areas that are particularly badly affected”.

He said: “Looking at the pressures on the NHS in the next couple of weeks and maybe longer… looking at the numbers of people who are going to be going into hospital, it would be absolute folly to say that this thing is all over now bar the shouting.

“We’ve got to remain cautious; we’ve got to stick with plan B, we’ve got to get boosted.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said on Twitter it was “very clear” the NHS in the rest of the country was “now coming under the significant pressure London has been encountering”.

Many trusts said the biggest challenge was rising staff absence, he said, so some were declaring critical incidents to manage those.

Parts of the health service are in crisis, Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation chief executive, warned.

“Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services. Many more hospitals are having to ban visitors to try to reduce the spread of infection,” he said.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to set their own Covid restrictions. It comes as secondary school children are due to head back to school this week, with testing and mask wearing in classrooms part of their return.