Selangor Journal
People, some wearing protective face masks, walk over Westminster Bridge, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in London, Britain, on July 4, 2021. — Picture by REUTERS

UK can ‘ride out’ Omicron wave without lockdown, says premier

LONDON, Jan 5 — The UK on Tuesday ruled out any new coronavirus-related restrictions, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that the country has “a chance to ride out this omicron wave” without another lockdown.

Speaking at a Covid-19 press briefing, Johnson began the conference on a more sober note, saying: “Anyone who thinks our battle with Covid over I am afraid is profoundly wrong. This is a moment for utmost caution”, according to Anadolu Agency.

Shortly before the press conference, the UK reported 218,724 new cases of the disease on Tuesday, a new record.

It brings the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 13.6 million, while deaths number 148,941 including 48 on Tuesday.

Johnson insisted, however, that the UK was now in a different position than it was in previous waves due to its national vaccination effort providing a “substantial level of protection”, it said.

“We can find a way to live with this virus,” he said, before adding that the weeks ahead would be “challenging” and that some services would be disrupted.

To this end, he announced that 100,000 critical workers in various sectors spanning food production, transport, and the border force, would be asked to take lateral flow tests every day from January 10. Retired teachers will also be asked to return to work.

Despite saying that the National Health Service (NHS) would transition to “war footing,” Johnson said he would not be implementing any further restrictions at this stage in addition to those already in place.

These restrictions, known as Plan B, include mask mandates in some settings and vaccine passports for some venues.

Encouraging Brits to get their booster jabs, Johnson said “up to 90 per cent of those in intensive care” have not been boosted and up to 60 per cent are unvaccinated.

Tuesday’s government data showed that up to and including January 3, 90.1 per cent of Brits aged 12 and over had received their first dose of a vaccine, while 82.6 per cent had their second jab and 59.8 per cent their booster shot.

Professor Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, spoke alongside Johnson.

Whitty said there had been a “very substantial increase” in the number of cases over the past few weeks, adding: “The expectation is that those numbers will go up.”

London has been the epicentre of the UK’s omicron wave thus far.

Whitty said of the capital: “Numbers are slowing, but they are still going up. Numbers in younger adults are levelling off and falling, but this is before New Year’s numbers will show. Rates in older people are still going up, and these are the people that are more likely to be hospitalised.”

He added, however, that “we are not seeing the same surge in mortality” from omicron as with previous waves.

The press conference came as a wave of hospitals in England has declared “critical incidents” — including in Lincolnshire, Swindon, Gloucestershire, and Blackpool, Anadolu Agency’s report said.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said that “in many parts of the health service, we are currently in a state of crisis.”

“Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services,” he added.

The Royal College of Nursing also wrote a letter to British Health Secretary Sajid Javid calling for a “more cautious approach” to Covid restrictions in England.

— Bernama


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