Chris Hopkins, chief executive of NHS Providers, has called on government ministers to consider “sensible precautions” to protect the health service as they move forward with their “living with Covid” strategy. He commented that “there is concern across the NHS that the government doesn’t seem to want to talk about coronavirus anymore”, adding that the current infection figures boil down to the belief that coronavirus “doesn’t exist anymore and no one needs to take any caution”.
He said: “But we think we need a proper national discussion for adults about what it really means to live with Covid.”
Hopkins said the question of coronavirus measures “is not all or nothing”, and that a “middle ground” could be the answer to reducing prevalence rates in the UK.
Recent estimates from the Office for National Statistics show that around one in 13 people in England and Wales currently have COVID-19.
More than 28,000 healthcare workers are unable to report to work every day due to Covid, and more than 20,000 patients with the disease occupy hospital beds.
Hopkins told The Times: “No one is arguing that we should go back to draconian lockdown restrictions, but this is not all or nothing.
“There is a middle ground which is where most other European nations are at, which is their political leaders explain what the level of risk is, and they basically say that therefore you need to think carefully: do you want to wear a mask in ? a public place?
“Do you want to make sure that if you’re inside with people you don’t normally hang out with, that there’s proper ventilation?
“Do you want to maximize the amount of time you spend outdoors meeting people instead of being indoors?”
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Professor Neil Mortensen, who heads the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to cause major disruption to the NHS, with a high number of staff absences in recent weeks.
Professor Mortensen told The Guardian: “We have heard that planned surgery will be canceled again in different parts of the country due to staff being sick with the virus.
“This is understandably frustrating for surgical teams who want to help their patients by getting planned surgery back on track.
“It’s also very distressing for patients who need a planned operation.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said last month that the NHS was under “significant” pressure from a surge in infections, fueled by the BA.2 Omicron variant.
Professor Stephen Griffin, an invited member of SAGE’s government advisory committee, also told Express.co.uk in March that the BA.2 variant was “wreaking havoc” in the UK, where “much of our population [are] vulnerable to infection.
He then ominously warned that without some action, “we’re going to see a really damaging wave of this virus as BA.2 takes hold.”