Boris Johnson gives update on Covid restrictions amid NHS crisis

By Neil Shaw

Boris Johnson still sees no need for further Covid restrictions in England despite rising staff absences in the NHS due to the virus, Downing Street has said.

After the Ministry of Defence announced the deployment of 200 troops to assist hospitals in London, a No 10 spokesman said ministers would ensure the health service had the support it needed.

However, he said the Covid booster jab programme meant there was not the same level of pressure on intensive care units seen in previous waves.

“The Prime Minister has been clear on controls. Plan B is balanced and proportionate to respond to the Omicron variant. It is continuing to help reduce its spread. But the important thing is the booster programme and the effectiveness it has in stopping the disease,” the spokesman said.

He added: “The military have helped out throughout the pandemic and they will do so again. We know that staff absences are contributing to the pressure the NHS is currently facing. Of course we will continue to take appropriate measures to ensure the NHS has the support they need.”

Troops are getting ready to support the NHS through the current wave of Covid-19 as NHS data shows staff absences due to Covid have risen 59% in a week.

The military said it could offer assistance to more hospitals around the UK if needed after around 200 personnel were drafted in to help the NHS in London, which has led the Omicron wave sweeping the country.

It comes as NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).


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