Covid lockdown: Question of 'when, rather than if' new restrictions will be enforced

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor has suggested the introduction of stricter measures is inevitable

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It is now a question of “when, rather than if” new restrictions will be enforced, healthcare leaders have said.

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor has suggested the introduction of stricter measures is inevitable amid the rapid spread of coronavirus fuelled by the rise of Omicron.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would “reserve the possibility” that further action would be needed to curb the transmission of Omicron cases.

Mr Taylor said measures including recalling Parliament over the Christmas break may need to be brought in.

He warned the NHS could become overwhelmed because average hospital bed occupancy is already at 93%.

He said: “Health leaders are not calling for further restrictions as they know these can be very damaging to people’s health and wellbeing but given the rising cases of coronavirus and the rapid spread of omicron, they feel it is now a question of when rather than if they will be needed.

“If the Plan B measures and boosters prove not to be enough, they expect the Government to respond quickly and pre-emptively in the national interest to the range of advice and modelling it has.

“This includes recalling Parliament over the Christmas break if that is needed.

“This is not just about protecting the NHS and its workforce but about protecting public health and reducing illness.”

Mr Taylor added that hospitals in England are seeing over 800 people admitted with coronavirus every day, and record levels of 999 calls were recorded in November.

He said that mental health, community and primary care services are also seeing high levels of demand, while staff sickness levels across the NHS are rising, especially in London.

This comes before January, which is normally the busiest month for frontline NHS services.

Mr Taylor also urged people to get the booster jab if they are eligible.

He said: “The NHS is working incredibly hard to keep disruption to patient care to a minimum and its teams will continue to prioritise essential services alongside vaccinating at record levels against coronavirus but it is likely they will need further support.

“The best thing the public can do is to continue to behave in ways that will keep themselves and others safe, including taking up the offer of a vaccine or booster if they are eligible.”