London: Boris Johnson warned of serious challenges ahead in tackling the omicron Covid-19 variant, as he eased testing rules to free up capacity to cope with a virus caseload that’s surging across the U.K.
Pre-departure tests for vaccinated travelers entering Britain will be scrapped from Friday, while people who test positive using rapid home kits will no longer need to take so-called PCR tests to confirm the result from Jan. 11.
“Thanks to the sheer size of the omicron wave, we still need to take steps to ensure our testing capacity reaches those who need it most,” Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday. The U.K. is “experiencing the fastest growth in Covid cases that we have ever known,” he said, while hospital admissions are “rising rapidly, doubling around every nine days.”
An additional 194,747 new cases were reported across the U.K. on Wednesday — another daily record if Tuesday’s data, which included a backlog of cases from over the New Year holiday, is excluded.
Even so, Johnson reiterated his plan to rely on light-touch regulations to manage omicron, with his cabinet formally approving his plan for England to stick to “Plan B” measures on Wednesday. That is despite warnings from National Health Service leaders that hospitals are coming under severe strain.