oris Johnson will face close scrutiny over his hope of ‘getting through’ the Omicron wave without further restrictions despite the NHS coming under significant pressure from the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister will argue to his cabinet that they should stick to Plan B measures in England, as he agreed that parts of the health services feel “temporarily overwhelmed”.
He will also face Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer on Prime Minister’s Questions and possible challenges from Tory MPs criticizing the restrictions amid concerns over understaffing.
Government sources have not denied reports suggesting that Covid-19 testing rules will be relaxed to reduce absences, although the timing of the announcement was not clear.
The Telegraph said a change so that the millions of people who test positive in lateral flow tests do not need a confirmatory PCR could come on Wednesday.
NHS trusts were declaring critical incidents and hospitals in Greater Manchester said they would suspend some ‘non-urgent’ operations due to the ‘growing impact’ of Covid-19 and staff shortages.
A record 218,724 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases were announced in England and Scotland on Tuesday, although the figure was inflated by reports delayed during the holiday period.
Mr Johnson has confirmed he will stick to Plan B measures, including advice on working from home, wearing masks and Covid health passes ahead of Wednesday’s review of expiring regulations January 26.
At a press conference in Downing Street, he argued that the booster’s deployment had given substantial protection and added, “So with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to overcome this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once. again.”
Mr Johnson agreed the coming weeks were going to be “difficult” and said “some services will be disrupted by staff absences” as he pledged to “fortify” the NHS to resist pressure and protect supply chains.
As part of the measures, he said 100,000 “essential workers”, including those in transport, police and food distribution, would undergo lateral flow tests every working day from Monday.
The Prime Minister added: “I would say we have a good chance of crossing the Omicron wave without needing any additional restrictions and certainly without needing a lockdown.”
But he accepted that the NHS was heading on a ‘war footing’ as he acknowledged that health services were under ‘enormous pressure’ as hospital admissions were ‘high’.
Mr Johnson’s administration in Westminster has stuck with Plan B restrictions announced four weeks ago, despite tighter restrictions in other UK countries.
A ministerial statement is also expected in the Commons on Wednesday, although it is not clear whether Mr Johnson will do it himself or whether it will be done by another minister.
Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon will brief the Scottish Parliament on the pandemic in the afternoon.