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RCN welcomes new 'Plan B' measures to stop the spread of the Omicron variant

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Omicron variant It is feared that the new variant is more resistant to vaccines

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) has welcomed the introduction of new measures designed to curb the alarming rise in new cases of the Omicron variant. The measures, due to come into force next week, are less draconian than previously but include advice for people to work at home ‘if they can’; mandatory mask-wearing in most indoor venues including churches, shops, cinemas and theatres; and the requirement to show a NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs.

RCN Chair of Council Carol Popplestone described them as ‘sensible measures’ which were ‘key to cutting the risk of increased hospitalisations and reducing transmission. Pressure on health and care services already feels unrelenting.’

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The Government has rushed in the new restrictions after cases of the new Omicron variant were found to be doubling every three days. While early data suggests the variant may cause milder symptoms – with fewer hospital admissions and less need for ventilators – researchers have expressed concern that their variant appears to be both more transmissible and better able to escape vaccine antibodies.

But the RCN warned against getting caught up in the detail of waiting for more data, and said acting now was the priority.

‘Nursing staff are concerned at the over-reliance on vaccinations. It is right that everyone gets a jab as soon as it is offered but we must all also stay cautious – we all have a part to play in curtailing the impact of Omicron,’ said Ms Popplestone.

‘The Prime Minister must remain responsive to emerging data and listen to health workers who will be frank with him about how services are coping and whether patients are safe.’

The announcement came at the end of a tumultuous day for the Government who are under fire over allegations of allowing a number of parties to take place in Downing Street when the rest of the country was in lockdown. When outlining the measures to Parliament, Health Secretary Sajid Javid faced heckling from his own side, and a number of Conservative MPs have pledged to vote against any tightening of restrictions: Marcus Fysh, MP for Yeovil, described them as ‘draconian, a massive attack on civil liberties and an utter disgrace’.

But speaking for the Opposition, the new shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting promised that Labour MPs would ‘put public health before party politics’ and support the new measures.

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