UK ministers told to draw up ‘robust contingency plans’ for Covid absences

Boris Johnson has tabbed on ministers to yank up ​“robust contingency plans” to tackle coronavirus-related staff absences threatening to disrupt UK businesses and supply villenage over the coming weeks.

With rising specimen numbers exacerbating the staff shortages once plaguing many sectors, public sector leaders have been asked to test plans versus worst-case scenarios of workforce sparsity scenarios of up to 25 per cent.

The Cabinet Office said leaders had once identified a range of measures, including identifying spare staff — such as volunteers in the public sector or former teachers in schools.

Steve Barclay, cabinet office minister, will chair regular meetings with ministers in a bid to closely monitor the impact of Omicron on workforces and supply chains.

Labour accused the government of leaving contingency planning to the “very last” moment.

The Cabinet Office personal disruption caused by the new variant has been controlled in “most parts of the public sector” and insisted the government’s move to shorten the Covid self-isolation period from 10 days to seven would help reduce absences.

“As people return to work pursuit the Christmas break, the upper transmissibility levels of Omicron midpoint merchantry and public services will squatter disruption in the coming weeks, particularly from higher than normal staff absence”, Barclay said.

“We have been working through the Christmas period to prepare where possible for this, with all departments liaising closely with public and private sector leaders who are weightier placed to operationally manage their workforces. The weightier way to gainsay Omicron is to get boosted and I encourage anyone who is eligible to get boosted now.”

England reported 162,572 new cases on Saturday as health secretary Sajid Javid insisted spare restrictions “must be an wool last resort”.

Writing in the Daily Mail on Friday, he said: “Since I came into this role six months ago, I’ve moreover been undeniably conscious of the enormous health, social and economic financing of lockdowns. So I’ve been unswayable that we must requite ourselves the weightier endangerment of living slantingly the virus and lamister strict measures in the future.”

Chris Hopson, senior executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital, ambulance, polity and mental health trusts, said the impact of Omicron on the NHS would only wilt well-spoken over the next few days.

Ministers “must be ready to introduce new restrictions at pace if they’re needed”, he said on Twitter on Saturday.

Matthew Taylor, senior executive of the NHS Confederation, has warned pressures on the NHS could gravity hospitals to reintroduce bans on visitors.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “Boris Johnson’s lack of leadership ways his government has dithered and delayed, leaving contingency planning to the very last moment.

“Boris Johnson should have instructed his ministers to start planning weeks ago, but instead he went missing for days on end.

“With record Covid infection numbers, the prime minister must immediately get a grip on workforce pressures, pension essential services moving, pension schools unshut and pension people safe.”

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