Boris Johnson set to address nation today on Covid rules as Omicron cases surge

The Prime Minister will meet his Cabinet this morning to discuss surging Omicron cases before updating MPs at around 4pm

The Prime Minister is expected to announce a change to Covid rules
The Prime Minister is expected to announce a change to Covid rules

Boris Johnson is due to give a statement to Parliament this afternoon on changes to Covid rules.

The Prime Minister will meet his Cabinet this morning to discuss surging Omicron cases before updating MPs at around 4pm.

He is expected to keep Plan B for England – with face masks in shops and on transport, and Covid passes for some venues.

But he is expected to continue his bid to “ride out the Omicron” wave without further restrictions despite mounting hospital pressure.

The PM could also announce changes to testing in his Commons statement.

Ministers are looking at plans to axe follow-up PCR tests for people who test positive by lateral flow, but have no symptoms.

Follow-up PCR tests are understood to be on the verge of being scrapped


Getty Images/ iStockphoto)

Instead of waiting for a PCR result, these people – said to account for around 40% of people with Covid – will have to isolate for at least seven days from the date of their positive lateral flow.

A final decision has not yet been made as of 9am today.

Meanwhile, the Government is poised to scrap pre-departure tests for travellers and Brits entering the UK as soon as today.

Ministers will hold a meeting about whether to relax the travel rules, with a final decision expected later on Wednesday.

The 4pm time of the PM’s statement could change depending on Commons business.

Ahead of the 4pm announcement, Mr Johnson will also lead PMQs at 3pm.

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Health minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC there was no “official news or updates” on the change but as lateral flow tests are accurate the Government was “looking at what makes sense, we don’t need to do things that are unnecessary”.

A Government source said the change was being discussed but details were “still being finalised”.

Ministers are also expected to approve the scrapping of pre-departure tests for travellers heading to England, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps keen to help protect the beleaguered aviation industry.

The Omicron-driven surge in coronavirus cases and the knock-on effect of staff absences is already causing major problems in parts of the health service.

A string of NHS trusts declared critical incidents and hospitals in Greater Manchester said they will pause some “non-urgent” surgery over the “rising impact” of Covid-19 and staffing shortages.

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.

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NHS England figures showed 15,044 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital on Tuesday morning, with 797 requiring mechanical ventilation.

Ms Keegan acknowledged the pressure on hospitals, saying: “Right now, they are under extreme pressure with the Omicron variant, with the number of positive cases and the increase in hospitalisations, and at this point in time when they always have extreme pressure.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson confirmed he would stick with the Plan B measures including work-from-home guidance, mask-wearing and Covid health passes ahead of the scheduled review of the regulations due to expire on January 26.

At a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, he argued the booster roll-out has given substantial protection.

Mr Johnson 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.”

Mr Johnson 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” including those in transport, policing and food distribution will get lateral flow tests on every working day starting on Monday.

But he accepted the NHS was moving to a “war footing” and acknowledged the health service is under “huge pressure” while hospital admissions are “high”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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