By Rachael Grealish
The UK will ‘ride out’ the omicron variant Boris Johnson has said in his first press conference of the new year
Unlike this time last year when the Prime Minister asked the public to stay at home for a third time, today, Tuesday January 4, he has said England will be sticking to the ‘plan B’ measures put in place before Christmas.
Just as positive COVID cases hit a new record high, 218,724, speaking from Downing Street, the PM said the battle against COVID is not over, but is different from previous waves.
He said: “Anyone who thinks our battle with COVID is over is profoundly wrong. This is a moment for the upmost caution but our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects.
“First we now know Omicron is milder than previous variants – so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 patients in hospital with covid alone, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers for people needing intensive care we saw in previous waves.
“Second, thanks the incredible national effort to get Britain boosted we now have a substantial level of protection higher than any of our European neighbours with over 34 million boosters administered.”
Due to this Johnson has said we now ‘have a chance to ride out this omicron wave without shutting down the country’ and implementing a fourth lockdown.
“And do together with the ‘plan B’ measures introduced before Christmas we have a chance to ride out this omicron wave without shutting down the country once again,” he said.
“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and find a way to live with this virus. But the weeks ahead are going to be challenging both here in the UK and across the world.”
The PM went on to say with continuing with ‘plan B’ measures there will be ‘no escaping’ disruptions to services due to absences – but compared this a as a lesser of two evils when considering implementing a lockdown on the country and the impact it could have.
“There’s no escaping the fact some services will be disrupted by staff absences but we’ve been working through Christmas to prepare for this wherever possible and if we all play our part in containing the spread of this virus the disruptions we face can be far less severe than a national lockdown and all the devastation that brings for the livelihoods and life chances of our children,” the PM continued.
“So, the government is acting to protect critical national services, to keep supply chains open and fortify our NHS to withstand the pressures ahead.”
He went on to say the government has identified 100,000 critical workers from food supply to transport and border force and they will be asked to take a lateral flow test every day from January 10.
Johnson finished his statement by saying ‘as the NHS moves to a war footing’ he will be recommending to cabinet tomorrow that the country continues with ‘Plan B’ measures as well as encouraging those who have not gone for their booster vaccination yet to do so.
He backed up the need for a booster, and general COVID vaccination, by explaining 90 percent of those in intensive care due to the virus have not had their booster – and 60 percent have not been vaccinated at all.
However, when the PM was asked if it is ‘unlikely or highly unlikely’ more restrictions will be imposed in England he said: “We will monitor everything very closely – we clearly can’t rule anything out”.
He added the government are trying to take ‘a balanced approach’ and says people ‘are doing their absolute best’ to help the effort.
“If you ask me to guess, I would say we have a good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions – and without the need, certainly, for another lockdown,” the PM said.