Boris Johnson to stick with ‘Plan B’ Covid measures despite mounting pressures

Boris Johnson has said England has ‘a good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions’

Boris Johnson will face significant pressure today over his decision to ‘ride out’ the current Covid wave without introducing any further restrictions.

The prime minister will meet with the cabinet today to reiterate his intention to maintain Plan B measures in the face of rising cases and self-isolation rules leading to staffing pressures across the NHS.

At a glance: the key points

  • Boris Johnson will make the case to cabinet today for sticking with Plan B measures rather than introducing further restrictions, despite growing pressure on the health system 
  • The prime minister will face significant scrutiny today as he goes over the decision in cabinet, then faces Keir Starmer at PMQs, before making a statement to the House on the decision to ‘ride out’ Omicron with Plan B measures
  • A record 218,724 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were announced in England and Scotland on Tuesday, though the figure will have been inflated by delayed reporting over the holiday period.
  • A number of NHS Trusts have declared critical incidents due to Covid-related staff absences, while in Greater Manchester a 15% staffing shortage has led to non-urgent operations being delayed at 17 hospitals 
  • Johnson has conceded that the weeks ahead will be “challenging”, particularly due to staff absences, but announced last night that 100,000 “critical workers” will get lateral flow tests every working day starting from Monday 
  • There are however signs that the Omicron wave may already be plateauing, with reports that infections could start falling in London soon, particularly among under-50s, and the rate of hospitalisations has decreased 

What’s been said?

At a Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson argued the booster roll-out has given substantial protection and added: “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.”

“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.”

Speaking to Sky News, Health minister Gillian Keegan said “about one million” people are currently in isolation because of coronavirus.

“We don’t actually collect that data on a daily basis but it is obvious if you look at how many people tested positive yesterday – it was about 215,000 – that they will all be self-isolating obviously from the previous days.

“So, it is about one million probably who are self-isolating right now.”

Speaking to the FT, Tim Spector from King’s College London said: “The rapid fall in London is faster than anything we’ve seen with Delta. I don’t see it bouncing right back if people remain cautious after the return to work and school.”