Boris Johnson has said that the current Plan B measures in England will remain unchanged, despite forecasting that the NHS will be under “considerable” pressure over the next few weeks.
There has been growing concern over the situation in the NHS, after United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust declared a “critical incident” with “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages resulting in “compromised care”.
At-a-glance: 5 key points
- The Prime Minister vowed to “make sure that we look after our NHS any way that we can” but warned that the pressure facing the health service could last for the next “couple of weeks, maybe more”.
- Johnson said the booster programme and Plan B measures made a difference but added: “There are still quite a lot of people who have had two jabs, but haven’t had the third. The third jab really does make a big, big difference.”
- It would be “absolute folly” to think the coronavirus pandemic was “all over”, he said during a visit to a vaccination hub at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
- The PM said it was vital that people in England “stick with Plan B” and get their booster vaccinations.
- There is concern among headteachers ahead of the return of schools, as they wait to learn how many staff will have available, as teachers take Covid tests before the start of term.
What did Boris Johnson say on Covid measures in England?
The Prime Minister said the current Plan B measures in England are the right ones to address the virus.
He added that all rules will be kept under review and urged people to “build up defences” by getting third doses of the jab, taking Covid tests “before meeting people you don’t usually meet” and working from home if possible.
He said: “I think the way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we’re on. We’ll keep everything under review.
“The mixture of things that we’re doing at the moment is, I think, the right one.
“So, number one, continue with Plan B, make sure that people take it seriously, do what we can to stop the spread, use the Plan B measures, work from home if you can, wear a mask on public transport… take a test before going out to meet people you don’t normally meet, think about the requirements under Plan B, but also get the boost.”
Asked whether he would consider cutting the isolation period after people test positive for coronavirus to five days, as has happened in some parts of America, the PM said: “We’ll continue to look at the infectivity periods, but the key thing is we don’t want to be releasing people back into the workplace when they’re still infectious.
“And the risk is you’d increase the numbers of people going back into the workplace who are infectious by a factor of three. So you might perversely have a negative effect on the workforce if you see what I mean, so that’s the argument we’re looking at.”
In a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, the Government announced earlier that secondary school pupils in England would be asked to wear masks in the classroom again, and would be offered twice-weekly testing.
What did the PM say about the pressure on the NHS?
The Prime Minister said he had spoken to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard and medical director Professor Stephen Powis about the pressures faced by healthcare staff.
He said: “I appreciate the pressures that our hospitals are under, I think it’s vital that we make sure that we help them by trying to contain the pandemic in the ways that I’ve set out.
“So do all the things that I’ve said, make sure we follow a Plan B, get boosted but also help the NHS with their staffing requirements, and we’re looking at what we can do to move people into those areas that are particularly badly affected.”
He added: “I would say to everybody 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 will be absolute folly to say that this thing is all over now bar the shouting.
“We’ve got to remain cautious. We got to stick with Plan B. We’ve got to get boosted.”
‘Critical incident’ at NHS Trust
The Prime Minister was speaking after United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust declared a “critical incident” with “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages resulting in “compromised care”.
The trust’s medical director Dr Colin Farquharson said: “As a result of significant staffing pressures due to absence related to Covid-19, we are having to take additional steps to maintain services.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said “a number of trusts across country have declared internal critical incidents over the last few days”.
Joe Harrison, the chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital said his site was not yet declaring a critical incident but said on Twitter he expected the “very pressured” situation to get worse before it got better.
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