Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, has said that the country should prepare for “tighter restrictions”, arguing that additional Covid measures may be needed to curb the spread of the Omicron variant in order to save the NHS from being overburdened by Covid patients. The Guardian has the story.
Boris Johnson must be ready to restrict social mixing to stop hospitals being overwhelmed by an Omicron-driven surge in Covid cases, a senior NHS leader has said.
The rapid spread of the new variant means the Prime Minister may have to introduce “tighter restrictions, at real speed” to reduce the number of people falling ill with Covid.
But any new curbs would take two weeks to cut the number of people needing hospital treatment, added Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers.
His comments came as a leading scientist predicted that the sharp increase in Covid infections seen in recent days means that the NHS will be overwhelmed “quite quickly”.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), warned exposure to only “a whiff of infected breath” could lead to catching the Omicron variant.
He also said that mingling during New Year celebrations may well lead to a further increase in those testing positive.
Hopson said that hospital chiefs understood that the Government had set “a high threshold” for how much pressure the NHS would need to be under from Covid before it would tighten the rules.
“Trust leaders can see why the Government is arguing that, in the absence of a surge of a large number of seriously ill older people coming into hospital, that threshold has not yet been crossed,” Hopson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“But we still don’t know if that surge will come. Indeed, the NHS is preparing for it right now,” he added. Eight hospitals in England have begun creating their own “mini-Nightingale” on site to help care for patients at “super-surge” capacity.
Hopson added: “We are therefore in the same place we have been in for the last fortnight. The Government needs to be ready to introduce tighter restrictions, at real speed, should they be needed.”
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