LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Friday it had begun deploying the army to support hospitals that are understaffed and overburdened by the record number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The government said 200 members of the armed forces had been made available to support the National Health Service (NHS) in London over the next three weeks.
The UK has seen an increase in coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant, reporting more than 150,000 new cases each day over the past week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said England could withstand the surge without further restrictions thanks to vaccination and a reduced intensity of the alternative, but warned that it would be a tough few weeks as staff were interrupted by having to self-isolate.
The government has also deployed the armed forces to assist with coronavirus testing and vaccination programmes.
“Once again, the Armed Forces are assisting the National Health Service workers, who are working tirelessly across the capital, and are assisting the Health Service in this difficult winter period, when the need is greatest,” said Health Minister Sajid Javid. .
The United Kingdom has recorded nearly 150,000 deaths from the emerging coronavirus, and after a two-year pandemic, government health services were already facing a crisis in morale and staff even before the latest increase in Omicron, according to a report from lawmakers published on Monday, Thursday.
The report claims that the employment crisis could hamper efforts to catch up with standard waiting lists for elective treatments caused by the COVID-19 disorder.
Chand Nagpol, chairman of the British Medical Association, said there were unprecedented levels of absenteeism on the NHS.
“Although the government has turned to the army for help in London, let’s not forget that we really have a national problem right now,” Nagpol told Sky News.
“This is a national problem and we have never before experienced this level of understaffing.”
(Additional reporting by Alistair Smoot. Editing by Andrew McCaskill; translated by Jose Muñoz in the Gdansk newsroom)
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