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Omicron strains U.K. health services, but no new measures to slow spread: PM Johnson

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Boris Johnson says no new measures to slow Omicron spread in U.K.'
COVID-19: Boris Johnson says no new measures to slow Omicron spread in U.K.
WATCH: Boris Johnson says no new measures to slow Omicron spread in U.K – Jan 3, 2022

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Monday that the country’s health system will remain under strain for weeks amid the current surge in COVID-19 infections, but suggested there would be no tightening of measures soon to slow the spread.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has sent Great Britain’s daily new caseload soaring over Christmas and the New Year, with 137,583 infections and 73 deaths reported for England and Wales only on Sunday, with numbers for Scotland and Northern Ireland to be announced after the holiday weekend.

“I think we’ve got to recognize that the pressure on our NHS, on our hospitals, is going to be considerable in the course the next couple of weeks, and maybe more,” Johnson said during a visit to a vaccination center in Aylesbury, 85 kilometers northwest of London.

Click to play video: 'UK health secretary says no new COVID-19 restrictions in England before New Year’s'
UK health secretary says no new COVID-19 restrictions in England before New Year’s

Read more: Omicron is raging in the U.K. What can Canada learn?

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Johnson was speaking after The Sunday Times newspaper reported that a group of hospitals in the eastern county of Lincolnshire had declared a “critical incident” due to “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts that run hospitals around the country, told the BBC: “We’re seeing increasing staff absences, and that’s coming on top of a very significant amount of wider pressure.”

Johnson’s government removed almost all coronavirus restrictions in July, but last month reversed course and triggered its “Plan B” for England – ordering face coverings be worn in indoor public places, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter nightclubs and asking people to work from home if they can.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: UK PM Boris Johnson says another lockdown not ‘on the cards’'
COVID-19: UK PM Boris Johnson says another lockdown not ‘on the cards’

Johnson on Monday urged people to adhere to those rules and get a booster vaccination shot, as the government seeks to shore up staffing shortages.

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“So do all the things that I’ve said, make sure we follow a Plan B, get boosted but also help the NHS with their staffing requirements, and we’re looking at what we can do to move people into those areas that are particularly badly affected,” he said.

But Johnson appeared to rule out any tightening of measures in coming days.

“I think the way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we’re on. We’ll will keep everything under review,” he said.

“The mixture of things that we’re doing at the moment is, I think, the right one.”

Earlier, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that data from London, which has seen surging infection rates in recent weeks, appear to show a “plateauing” of rates, but he added, “we are seeing leakage into the over-50s in terms of infections, and it’s generally the over-50s who end up with severe infection and hospitalization.”

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