Daily Covid tests announced for 100,000 critical workers to fight staffing crisis

More than 200,000 Covid cases were confirmed on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic

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Boris Johnson announces increase in tests for critical workers

Workers in critical industries will be told to take daily tests to prevent mass staffing shortages caused by the surge of Omicron cases, Boris Johnson has said.

From January 10, 100,000 critical workers in areas from food processing to transport and border force will be asked to do lateral flow tests every working day.

The PM said the country could “ride out this Omicron wave” without another national lockdown – and said England would stick with Plan B measures.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: “Anyone who thinks our battle is over is profoundly wrong. This is a moment for the utmost caution.”

But he said Omicron appeared to be milder than previous variants and the booster programme was offering a substantial level of protection.

“We’ll be rolling out lateral flow testing for all these workers available on every working day,” Mr Johnson said.

Boris Johnson made the announcement at a Downing Street press conference

“We have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.”

There is no full list yet of the industries which would be included in the scheme.

Mr Johnson said he would recommend continuing with the Government’s Covid Plan B, which includes working from home and masks being worn in indoor settings.

He said: “As our NHS moves to a war footing, I will be recommending to Cabinet tomorrow that we continue with Plan B, because the public have responded and changed their behaviour, your behaviour, buying valuable time to get boosters in arms and help the NHS to cope with the Omicron wave.”

Daily Covid cases topped 200,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic – with 218,724 infections recorded in England and Scotland as of 9am on Tuesday.

The figure is expected to have been inflated by delayed reporting of cases over the Christmas period.

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

The number of people in hospital in England

There were 1,881 Covid-19 hospital admissions in England on January 2 – up 37% from the previous week but below the 2,370 admissions recorded on December 29.

Daily hospital admissions peaked at 4,134 on January 12 during the second wave of the virus.

A number of hospital trusts have declared critical incidents.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This scheme will only reach one in every hundred key workers. It’s hopelessly inadequate.

“Key workers do their vital work in teams. Surgeons and nurses need cleaners and porters. Food supply needs producers, warehouse staff, drivers, and retailers. Ministers must explain who is left out, and what they should do if they can’t get tested.

“The Prime Minister has known about the shortage of tests for weeks. It beggars belief that he is doing so little, so late.”

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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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