The government is to fast track Covid tests for up to 10 million “critical” workers due to major staff shortages with up to 50% of people reportedly absent from some services
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The government is to give fast-track Covid tests for up to 10 million “critical” workers to tackle major staff shortages brought on by the Omicron variant.
As Brits head back to work and schools reopen after the festive holidays, there are fears that many services will be affected by the rampant surge of Omicron.
There are reports that there are up to 50% of staff absent, from council services to police units and health workers.
And the situation has been worsened by a shortage of lateral flow tests and the time taken to receive PCR results.
Now, ministers are to meet in the Cabinet’s Covid Operations Committee to look at putting in place a plan to prioritise critical workers for testing, it is reported.
A Telegraph source said: “It will be key workers including those responsible for critical national infrastructure.”
At least six hospital trusts have declared critical incidents – where priority services may be under threat – and one in 10 NHS employees nationwide were not in on New Year’s Eve, according to official data.
Health leaders have warned the NHS was “in a state of crisis”, while a headteacher predicted remote learning could return if school staff were struck down with the virus.
Department for Education (DFE) modelling shows that between nine and 13% of staff could be missing from schools when they restart after Christmas.
At the same time nearly a third of rail services have been cancelled due to a lack of staff.
AFP via Getty Images)
Along with six million NHS staff and workers in social care, education and childcare, others in communication, utilities and food production are also set to be prioritised for testing, reported the Telegraph.
It comes as a further 157,758 lab-confirmed Covid cases were recorded in England and Scotland. the government said.
Some pupils return to the classroom on Tuesday with new advice to wear masks in the classroom.
The move has been recommended for secondary school pupils in England, alongside testing twice a week.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “What we’re saying is, look, with Omicron, because it’s so infectious, we want to make sure that we give you as many tools to be able to make sure that education is open.”
But he admitted it was “more challenging, of course, to deliver education with masks on in the classroom”.
He said: “This is an aerosol-transmitted virus and if you’re wearing a mask, if you’re asymptomatic, then you’re less likely to infect other people.”
It is hoped the return of masks may prevent the need to disrupt children’s education further.
Mr Zahawi said: “The most important thing is to keep them (schools) open.
“We monitor staff absenteeism, I just said to you we’re running at about 8% last year. If that rises further then we look at things like merging classes, teaching in bigger numbers.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.