It comes as some of Britain’s biggest hospitals have rung the alarm bells over the dramatic rise in Omicron cases. Some have been forced to pause non-urgent surgery and outpatient appointments due to the rising impact of Covid on patients and staff. Others have declared a “critical incident” as services are currently “under unprecedented pressure”.
In a televised Covid briefing on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that “there is no escaping the fact that some services will be disrupted by staff absences”.
He said 100,000 “critical workers” in areas such as food processing, transport and border force would have daily lateral flow tests made available to them from January 10.
But Professor Amitava Banerjee, a cardiologist and researcher at the University College London, has told Mr Johnson to “get serious”.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he added: “What I learned [from the press conference] was what we wouldn’t do rather than what we would do.
“It seems like there’s a quite clear line in the sand where further measures equate to lockdown and that’s not being contemplated.
“The words being used are ‘war footing’ and we know that several trusts around the country are having critical incidents or having to divert services or cancel non-covid related work.
“There’s even talk of involving the army and yet we’re not seeing that as a serious enough reason to take further action.
“As a health professional and a researcher, I can’t understand that.”
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The Prime Minister also stated that the Government policies would lead to the NHS being “temporarily overwhelmed”.
But Professor Banerjee was left baffled by this statement, adding: “It seems to me that we’re accepting increasing pressure on the NHS, [though] originally the policy was to protect the NHS.
He also begged the Prime Minister to look at the bigger picture over the Omicron variant.
He said: “One of the issues that I’ve highlighted repeatedly is that we’re still looking at cases, admissions, and deaths.
“You have to look at the whole picture. We’re not looking at the non-Covid effects, outpatient services, cancer services, cardiovascular services and also the long term effects of Covid.
“We’re not looking at those data and those are significant.
“Staff absences at the moment have been seen as ‘can we staff GP services, A&E, ICUs?’
“We can’t just look at inpatients, we have to start looking at the inevitable backlog as a result of this process.
“We have to note that the Office for National Statistics has shown that 1.2 million people had symptoms for four weeks or more and many of them were bad enough to be off sick.
“It’s very difficult to say that we can run the economy at full speed when there’s that level of symptoms and potential function of impairment or disability as a result of Covid.“