Boris Johnson to host 5pm press conference as Omicron leaves hospitals at 'breaking point'

4 January 2022, 13:29 | Updated: 4 January 2022, 14:40

Boris Johnson will hold a 5pm press conference
Boris Johnson will hold a 5pm press conference. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson will lead a press conference this afternoon as the Omicron variant rises in parts of England, with at least six hospitals declaring a critical incident.

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The Prime Minister will address the nation from 5pm today as experts warned the NHS is "in a state of crisis", with up to a million people understood to be off sick due to Covid isolation.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have all confirmed they declared internal critical incidents.

The Cabinet is set to meet today to discuss the Omicron situation and any new measures would be raised in Parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson will be joined by Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.

Tuesday's press conference comes after Boris Johnson admitted the NHS would come under "considerable" pressure in the coming weeks, as Omicron spreads through the UK, but believed Plan B measures would work.

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Steve Barclay, the cabinet office minister, has also said that the Government does not believe the data suggests more restrictions are needed.

The health service has been seriously affected by staff absences, with employees either falling ill with coronavirus infection or having to isolate.

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said many parts of the health service are "in a state of crisis", with some hospitals having to call staff to surrender their rest days or leave to help about.

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said "extreme and unprecedented" shortages of workers are likely to result in "compromised care".

The chief executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Aaron Cummins, said that trust had declared an "internal critical incident".

Staff shortages will not be eased by complaints of how hard it has been to get free lateral flow tests, which can release people from self-isolation three days early.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that up to 10 million critical workers will be able to get tests through their employers in the coming weeks, including health, education, transport and utilities workers.