Boris Johnson faces scrutiny over plan to ‘ride out’ Omicron without fresh rules

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    oris Johnson will face scrutiny over his hope to “ride out” the wave of Omicron without further restrictions despite the NHS coming under significant strain from coronavirus.

    The Prime Minister will argue to his Cabinet on Wednesday they should stick by the Plan B measures in England as he accepted parts of the health service will feel “temporarily overwhelmed”.

    He will also face Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions and possible challenges from Tory MPs critical of restrictions amid concerns of staffing shortages.

    Government sources did not deny reports suggesting Covid-19 testing rules will be relaxed to reduce absences, though the timing of the announcement was unclear.

    The Telegraph said a change so that millions who test positive in lateral flow tests will not need a confirmatory PCR could come on Wednesday.

    NHS trusts were declaring critical incidents and hospitals in Greater Manchester said they will pause some “non-urgent” surgery over the “rising impact” of Covid-19 and staffing shortages.

    A record 218,724 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were announced in England and Scotland on Tuesday, though the figure will have been inflated by delayed reporting over the holiday period.

    Mr Johnson confirmed he would stick with the Plan B measures including work-from-home guidance, mask-wearing and Covid health passes ahead of Wednesday’s review of the regulations scheduled to expire on January 26.

    (PA Graphics) / PA Graphics

    At a Downing Street press conference, he argued the booster roll-out has given substantial protection and added: “So together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.”

    Mr Johnson accepted the weeks ahead are going to be “challenging” and said “some services will be disrupted by staff absences” as he pledged to “fortify” the NHS to withstand the pressures and protect supply chains.

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