UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he hopes England can “ride out” the current wave of Covid-19 without further restrictions.
He, however, acknowledged parts of the NHS would feel “temporarily overwhelmed” amid a surge of Omicron cases, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister said there was a “good chance” he would not impose fresh measures and would recommend continuing the government’s “Plan B” strategy in England to ministers on Wednesday.
He also announced plans for 100,000 critical workers to take daily tests.
The testing regime from January 10 will be for key industries including food processing, transport, and the border force, in order to reduce the spread of the virus to colleagues.
The Prime Minister said at a Downing Street briefing he will recommend England sticks with Plan B restrictions when cabinet ministers meet to discuss extending them.
The measures – which include working from home where possible, mask-wearing in most public settings, and Covid passports in some venues – are currently due to run out on 28 January.
As daily UK Covid case figures exceeded 200,000 for the first time with the spread of the Omicron variant, Johnson said people who believed the pandemic to be over were “profoundly wrong”.
The daily cases include a backlog of two days of cases from Wales and four days in Northern Ireland.
He said this was a moment for caution but also that the UK’s position was different from other waves, as Omicron is milder than previous variants and booster vaccines have been rolled out.
Johnson said the country had a chance to “ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again”.
“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus,” he said.
Johnson acknowledged the weeks ahead would be “challenging” with “some services disrupted by staff absences”. But he promised to “fortify” the NHS to withstand pressure.
The assurances come as many industries are facing staffing problems over the number of workers self-isolating with Covid or as contacts of cases, while many people have struggled to get tests over Christmas amid supply and demand issues.