Covid round-up: Latest updates amid wave of Omicron cases

Boris Johnson has suggested sticking to Plan B measures in England amid the rising number of Covid cases, concerns about school returns and the possibility of hospital congestion.

The Prime Minister spoke at a press conference on Downing Street on Tuesday (January 4).

While other countries in the UK have tighter restrictions, check out the current state of Covid-19 on these coastlines here:

What do the numbers say?

In England and Scotland, more than 200,000 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases were registered for the first time on Tuesday.

However, these numbers include some delayed reports of cases due to the holiday season.

A total of 15,044 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 at 8 a.m. on January 4, according to NHS England, a 58% increase from a week earlier and the highest number since February 18.

There were an additional 7,215 cases in Northern Ireland on New Year’s Eve, a daily record since the pandemic began.

Mr Johnson said during the press conference on Downing Street Tuesday that the latest record high number of Covid cases showed that those who believed the pandemic was over were “deeply wrong”.

What are the UK restrictions?

Mr Johnson said there was a “good chance” that he would not impose any new restrictions as he was in favor of sticking to Plan B measures.

England has the loosest rules in the UK with Covid passes for entry to nightclubs and other venues.

Face covering is mandatory in most indoor public spaces as well as on public transport, and people have been instructed to work from home whenever possible, which is similar in the other countries.

However, night clubs have closed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

In England, Wales or Northern Ireland, if a person tests positive or has symptoms, they can end self-isolation after seven days instead of ten if they get two negative results from the lateral flow test on days six and seven.

Nicola Sturgeon was asked to shorten the length of stay in Scotland.

There is a limit to the number of people who can attend events in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

What was recently announced?

The Prime Minister said the time had come for “extreme caution”.

He announced that starting Monday, 100,000 “critical workers”, including transportation, police and food distribution workers, will receive lateral flow tests every weekday.

Mr Johnson said the introduction of new restrictions “depends on being completely open” on whether the tribe first identified in South Africa is behaving similarly to what it is there and “how quickly it blows away”.

What is happening in schools?

Students return to the classroom after Christmas break with new advice for secondary school students in England to wear face masks in class due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

Secondary school and college students are also encouraged to test on site before returning to class.

School leaders have expressed concern that staff shortages may worsen in the new school year. Some report that around one in five employees could be absent.

The Education Minister said schools should be prepared to group classes into large groups if staff numbers become too low.

In Northern Ireland, Graham Gault of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that while teachers wanted schools to stay open, they had concerns about contact tracing and a staffing crisis.

The Scottish Government has asked secondary school students to take a lateral flow test before returning to school, while 12-15 year olds will be asked to have their second coronavirus vaccination, which they are now eligible to receive.

What is the situation like in hospitals?

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, said “the vast majority” of ICU patients had not been stung.

He admitted that “some hospitals, some areas of the country” will come under “very significant pressure” over the next few weeks as many employees are isolated.

Hospital staffing is said to be “nearly impossible”, according to Matthew Taylor, chairman of the board of directors of the NHS Confederation, which represents health officials, and cases are increasing across the UK.

Meanwhile, Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, who represents health trusts, said at least “half a dozen” NHS hospitals reported a critical incident while trying to respond to Covid.

Among those reporting critical incidents were the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

What could be announced next?

The government said it continues to track data on the spread of the coronavirus and listen to scientists and experts.

Plan B’s measures to fight coronavirus are set to be formally reviewed when MPs return to Parliament on Wednesday to answer questions from the Prime Minister, but given Mr Johnson’s message at Tuesday’s press conference, it is unlikely that any major measures will be imposed.

The First Minister of Scotland will address the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday on the situation with Covid-19.

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