At today’s Downing Street press conference, Boris said he was going to recommend to Cabinet tomorrow that we stick to ‘Plan B’, i.e. not impose any more Covid restrictions. True, he left his options open, as he always does, but given that the Omicron wave is peaking it seems unlikely he’ll change his mind.
He opened by urging “utmost caution”, saying anyone who thinks our battle with Covid is over is “profoundly wrong”. But we also know, he said, that Omicron is milder than previous variants and not translating to into the same intensive care demand as previous cases. (That’s borne out by the latest ICNARC data, released on Christmas Eve, which shows Covid patients in ICU remaining flat.)
He went on to say that thanks to the “substantial” levels of immunity in the population, there was a good chance we can “ride out this Omicron wave”. But the weeks ahead will be “challenging” and some essential services will be disrupted due to staff absences. He said that 100,000 key workers in England, “from food processing to transport to Border Force”, will have to test every day they are working from January 10th, which is supposed to help with staff absences, though may backfire if more people test positive.
In a welcome change from his last press conference, he clarified that when he said nine out of 10 Covid patients in intensive care were unvaccinated he meant 90% hadn’t had a booster, not that 90% were completely unvaccinated. (The BBC reported this wrongly.) He added that about 60% of Covid patients in ICUs are unvaccinated, which is the figure that appeared in the latest ICNARC report (61%).
Sir Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said Covid hospitalisations in London were still going up, but neglected to mention that at least a third of infected patients only have COVID-19 incidentally, i.e. they were admitted for something else, and the reason numbers are increasing is because there’s a bottle-neck of patients who’ve been earmarked for discharge but who can’t be because of absences among care workers. (See the Telegraph report on this from yesterday.)
That would explain why the number of Covid in-patients in London is going up while admissions in the community are falling. The number for the past seven days has gone down, week-on-week (see below).
27-Dec: 321 28-Dec: 331 29-Dec: 361 30-Dec: 330 31-Dec: 246 01-Jan: 251 02-Jan: 262
The most ominous thing Boris did was to hint that Covid Passes will soon be withdrawn from those that haven’t had a booster. I imagine that this tightening of the Covid passport rules won’t require parliamentary approval so can be done without risking another rebellion. Bound to be controversial with the Parliamentary Conservative Party, though.
All in all, quite good news.
You can read the Telegraph‘s report about the press conference here.