Mask wearing, social distancing and working from home could be introduced by ministers to ease pressures on the NHS, as some experts call for Britons to start adopting Covid-era measures. The Mail has more.
The NHS is facing record winter pressures due to rising rates of Covid and flu, staff shortages and too few beds, while experts fear an Omicron sub-variant will drive a surge in infections, piling even more pressure on the already-crippled health service.
Health chiefs and scientists have already advised adults and pupils to stay at home if they are unwell, don masks if they must go outside when sick and called for the booster rollout to be widened in a bid to ease NHS demand.
Now, ministers are said to be considering issuing fresh guidance to wear masks on public transport, work-from-home and socially distance if the health service “is at risk of collapse”. Hospital bosses have already warned the crisis will continue to Easter but said measures used in the darkest days of the pandemic are not yet needed.
Some experts are advising Britons to already start limiting their contacts, socially distance and not go into the office to limit the spread of winter viruses.
However, others have hit out at the response, warning the the NHS’s “annual winter crisis to be used as an excuse to reintroduce Covid-era restrictions”.
Official sources have suggested that the Government could issue fresh advice for the public to wear face masks on public transport and work from home.
A “well-placed” source told the i that there is a “list of potential measures” under consideration. However, lockdowns and school closures are not among them and no advice is expected to be mandatory or legally enforceable.
They said: “Softer, less intrusive measures could soon be introduced if the NHS is at risk of collapse. While the guidance is for people who are ill to wear face masks if they leave their homes already, it may well be that the wearing of a mask could again be the guidance for all those using public transport.”
A separate Government source told the news website: “We’re not there yet, but guidance for everyone, ill or not, to wear face masks on public transport is not really going to inconvenience people. It would also make perfect sense to ask people who can work from home to do so if the NHS need us all to support them through this busy period of the year.’”
Officials have also drawn up social distancing guidance which advises people to avoid crowded indoor spaces, according to the i.
Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia (and Daily Sceptic contributor), told MailOnline that the public are currently more vulnerable to viruses due to prior Covid restrictions and it is a “period we have to pass through”.