UK draws up omicron emergency plans for hospitals and schools | Health and fitness

By MIKE FULLER – Associated Press

LONDON (AP) – The UK government has drawn up contingency plans in case hospitals, schools and other workplaces are hit by a major staff shortage amid the country’s record peak in coronavirus infections .

Public sector workplaces have braced for staff absences ranging from 10% to 25% as COVID-19 is making more people sick or forcing them to self-isolate, the Cabinet Office said.

The highly transmissible variant of omicron has skyrocketed the number of new daily cases in Britain over Christmas and New Years, with a new daily high of 189,000 on December 31. About 1 in 25 people in England – roughly 2 million people – had COVID-19 in the week before Christmas, the Office of National Statistics estimated. In London, the figure was 1 in 15.

Cabinet Minister Stephen Barclay said there had already been “significant” absences and the government was preparing for “any eventuality.”

“It is important that these contingency plans are up to date and that we take action to mitigate these impacts,” said Barclay.

He cited increased support for virus testing in schools and warehouses, and perhaps better ventilation, as an example of how to avoid disruption.

Decentralized authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have placed limits on events and social gatherings in the face of the rapid spread of omicron. But Health Secretary Sajid Javid said adding new restrictions is a “last resort” for England, despite the rising daily infection rate.

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