Utilities feel pressure as Omicron business threatens to run out of staff

Utilities are using contingency plans to ease staffing shortages caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

At least six hospital trusts have declared critical incidents – where priority services may be at risk.

Boris Johnson said on Monday he would ‘make sure we look after our NHS in every way possible’.

And the education secretary said schools should be prepared to merge classes into large groups if staffing levels drop too low.

But health officials warned the health department was “in a state of crisis”, and a principal predicted remote learning could resume if school staff were hit with the virus.

The Daily Telegraph reported that up to 10 million ‘critical’ workers could access Covid tests through their employers, after days of complaints that they could not be ordered online and that stocks in the pharmacies were spotty.

The newspaper said health, education, transport and utility workers would be included in the scheme, which could be announced as early as this week after a meeting of the Cabinet’s Covid operations committee on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But meanwhile, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said “a number of trusts across the country have reported internal critical incidents over the past few days”.

One was the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, where ‘extreme and unprecedented’ staff shortages were expected to lead to ‘compromised care’.

People queue outside a vaccination clinic at Glasgow Central Mosque (Jane Barlow/PA)

(PA wire)

And the chief executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Aaron Cummins, confirmed in a statement that the trust had declared an “internal critical incident”.

In an internal message from Mr Cummins shared on Twitter, he told staff that “despite everyone’s best efforts, many of our patients are still receiving a level of care and experience below the level of standards we would like”.

Meanwhile, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘It’s hard to imagine that if the NHS is affected, that retail is affected, if sports equipment is affected , it’s hard to see why you schools and colleges wouldn’t have the same staffing shortage issues. »

Trash collections and rail services were also affected.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, a further 157,758 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in England and Scotland, the government said.

Scotland saw its highest number of daily cases yet, while figures for Wales and Northern Ireland were not reported on Monday evening.

The government also said a further 42 people died in England within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics show there are now 174,000 recorded deaths in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

During a visit to a vaccination center on Monday, the Prime Minister said he appreciated the pressure on staff and said it was ‘essential that we make sure we help them in trying to contain the pandemic’ vaccinating and following plan B the measures.

Speaking at the Guttman Center at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, he warned it would be ‘absolute madness to say it’s all over now except the screaming’.

But he also said it was “very encouraging” to see children being bitten before returning to school.

Speaking to staff, Mr Johnson noted that people of ‘all ages’ were queuing to get their shots.

“Lots of children too, it’s very encouraging to see. All the kids get bitten before they go back to school,” he said.

Dean Morrison, 13, receives his Covid-19 vaccine (Jane Barlow/PA)

(PA wire)

It comes as some students return to class on Tuesday with new advice for wearing masks in class.

The move has been recommended for secondary school students in England, alongside twice-weekly testing.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “What we’re saying is, look, with Omicron, because it’s so contagious, we want to make sure that we give you as many tools to be able to make sure education is open.”

But he admitted it was “more difficult, of course, to teach with masks in the classroom”.

He said: “This is an aerosol-borne virus and if you wear a mask, if you are asymptomatic you are less likely to infect other people.”

Mr Johnson admitted he was unhappy with the plans but said they were needed at the moment.

It is hoped that the return of masks will avoid having to further disrupt children’s education.

Mr Zahawi said: “The most important thing is to keep them (the schools) open.

“We monitor staff absenteeism, I just told you that we were running at around 8% last year. If it increases further, we are looking at things like merging classes, teaching more.

Plan B measures to tackle coronavirus are set to be reviewed when MPs return to Parliament on Wednesday, when the Prime Minister is also likely to face questions over reports from the Daily Mirror that he has failed to self-isolate in January last year after coming into contact with a member of staff who tested positive.

A Downing Street spokesman told the Mirror that Mr Johnson had been socially distanced from the staff member and had been with them for less than 15 minutes.

The spokesperson said: “He was not advised to self-isolate as the rules did not require him to do so.”