With rising numbers of cases exacerbating the staff shortages already plaguing many sectors, public sector leaders have been asked to test plans against the worst-case scenarios of workforce absenteeism scenarios of up to 25 per cent.
The Cabinet Office said leaders had already identified a range of measures, including identifying additional staff – such as public sector volunteers or former teachers in schools.
Cabinet Office Secretary Steve Barclay will chair regular meetings with ministers in an effort to address the impact of Omicron on labor forces and supply chains.
Labor accused the government of leaving contingency planning to the “very last” moment.
The Cabinet Office claimed that disruption caused by the new variant was controlled in “most parts of the public sector” and insisted that the government’s move to shorten the Covid self-isolation period from 10 days to seven would help reduce absences.
“As people return to work after the Christmas holidays, Omicron’s high portability levels mean that business and public services will face disruption in the coming weeks, especially due to higher than normal staff absenteeism,” said Barclay.
“We have worked through the Christmas season to prepare for this where possible, with all departments now liaising with leaders in the public and private sector best placed to manage their workforce operationally. The best way to fight Omicron is to get a boost and I encourage anyone who is eligible to get a boost now. ”
England reported 162,572 new cases on Saturday, as Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted that additional restrictions “should be an absolute last resort”.
He wrote in the Daily Mail on Friday, saying: “Since I came into this role six months ago, I have also been acutely aware of the enormous health, social and economic costs of restraint. I am therefore determined to do our best. should have a chance to live with the virus and avoid strict measures in the future. ”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS providers, which represents hospital, ambulance, community and mental health trusts, said Omicron’s impact on the NHS would only become clear over the next few days.
Ministers “must be ready to impose new restrictions quickly if necessary,” he said on Twitter on Saturday.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, warned that pressure on the NHS could force hospitals to re-ban visitors.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of Labor, said: “Boris Johnson’s lack of leadership means that his government has refused and delayed, leaving contingency planning to the last minute.
“Boris Johnson should have instructed his ministers to start planning weeks ago, but instead he went missing for days on end.
“With a record number of Covid infections, the prime minister must immediately get a grip on workforce pressure, keep essential services running, keep schools open and keep people safe.”