The Prime Minister said Omicron is “plainly milder” but called it “absolute folly” to think the pandemic is over as Covid “continues to surge through the country”
Hospitals will be under “considerable” pressure for the next two weeks and “maybe more”, Boris Johnson has said as Covid Omicron cases surge.
Speaking at a vaccination centre today, the Prime Minister said the new strain was “plainly milder” than the Delta or Alpha variant, but accepted the NHS faced a tough January.
He said “there’s no question Omicron continues to surge through the country” but appeared to rule out going beyond the Plan B restrictions already in place.
“I think we’ve got to recognise that the pressure on our NHS, on our hospitals, is going to be considerable in the course the next couple of weeks, and maybe more,” he said.
The PM urged people to get their booster jab, adding: “I think we’ve got to recognise that the pressure on our NHS, on our hospitals, is going to be considerable in the course the next couple of weeks, and maybe more.”
Mr Johnson pledged to “make sure that we look after our NHS any way that we can” but underlined the Government was unlikely to introduce new curbs.
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When asked if Britain was looking at the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, the PM said it would be “absolute folly” to think Covid was “all over”.
He told broadcasters the country was in a “much, much stronger position than this time last year… because of science and because of vaccination”, but he warned against complacency.
He said: “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.”
He said he had spoken to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard and medical director Professor Stephen Powis about the pressures faced by healthcare staff amid rises in Covid-related absences.
As it stands, England remains in Plan B, which includes face masks in most indoor places, guidance to work from home and NHS Covid passes for nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
MPs are due to return to the Commons on Wednesday following the Christmas recess, with the Cabinet due to meet the same day to review curbs.
With data still trickling in from the festive period, the extent to which the highly-transmissible Omicron variant will pile pressure on the NHS in the coming weeks is not yet clear.
A further 137,583 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in England and Wales as of 9am on Sunday, the Government 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,” the PM said.
“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.
“Don’t forget that… no matter how incredibly transmissible Omicron is – and there’s no question it really spreads very, very fast – it is different from previous variants.
“And it does seem pretty conclusively to be less severe than Delta or Alpha, and it is putting fewer people into ICU, and sadly the people who are getting into ICU are the people who aren’t boosted, so get boosted.”