Britain’s ever-growing wave of Omicron soared to yet another pandemic high today as Boris Johnson warned of ‘challenges’ in the weeks ahead.
Department of Health bosses logged another 189,846 positive tests, eclipsing yesterday’s single-day record by a fraction and marking a 55 per cent surge on last Friday.
Hospitalisations have soared by 65 per cent over the same time-frame, with NHS wards in England now as busy as during the devastating second wave last January. Another 203 deaths were registered but the figures are inflated and include fatalities that weren’t posted over the festive period.
It comes ahead of New Year’s celebrations tonight, which have been allowed to go ahead in England without any further Covid curbs. In contrast, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have imposed restrictions.
But No10 could still change direction next week, with the Prime Minister set to decide then on whether to impose new restrictions to limit indoor socialising after warning in his message for 2022 that there will be ‘challenges’ in New Year.
As well as rising Covid case and hospital numbers, NHS staffing absences have doubled in a fortnight and fuelled fears that new measures could be on the horizon. MPs have asked the PM to call an emergency Cobra meeting to ‘thrash out a rescue plan’ to save the NHS from its ‘devastating’ workforce crisis.
But in his New Year’s Eve message, Mr Johnson insisted that the nation’s position in the battle against the disease is now ‘incomparably better than last year’, thanks to the vaccine rollout.
Despite admissions spiking to levels not seen during the depths of the second wave and forcing health chiefs into constructing eight mini-‘Nightingale’ wards in a last-ditch insurance policy, the number of critically ill coronavirus patients remains flat.
Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, admitted the threshold for taking action ‘hasn’t been crossed yet’.