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23 May, 2022
 
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Britain: Rubbish isn't collected, supermarkets shelves are empty and councils slash services

Calls to cut isolation to 5 days after 1m stuck in Covid quarantine

Source: Daily Mail

The UK's self-isolation 'farce' means at least 1million people are now stuck at home - crippling many critical services with supermarket shelves emptying, trains canceled, bin collections axed, council services slashed and up to 25 percent of care home staff off work and one in ten NHS staff off sick.

NHS bosses have been sounding an alarm about rising staff absences, suggesting they are more of a problem than the number of patients.

Almost every part of British life has been hit by people quarantining at home because of Omicron - but the Government is still refusing to follow France and the US by slashing self-isolation from seven days to five days for the fully vaccinated.

Despite Omicron causing very little serious illness apart from among the unvaccinated, ministers are now considering bringing in the Army to keep services running, especially in the public sector. With cases still hitting 160,000 per day, and a 'tsunami' of infections predicted in January, the crisis is only going to get worse.

As queues formed at checkouts because of a lack of supermarket workers, and some shelves emptying especially in fresh food aisles such as milk and bread, Iceland boss Richard Walker said the number of his staff now self-isolating has rocketed by 1,000 in a week.

He said: 'Our Covid absences have risen by almost 700 week-on-week, now at over 1,700. It would be very helpful to businesses if the isolation period was cut'.

There is growing anger at the lack of action to prevent disruption to key industries caused by a lack of staff, but Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup today insisted Boris Johnson has 'no plans' to cut Covid self-isolation from seven days to five days. Business leaders have branded the situation 'farcical'.

This is despite expert after expert - and many Britons who have had Omicron - insisting the variant is rarely worse than a mild cold. Gloomy predictions about the number of deaths it would cause, especially without a new lockdown, have also failed to be correct.

Professor Lockdown, Neil Ferguson, who before Christmas had predicted Omicron could cause 3,000 deaths per day in January, said today that he believes that cases could be starting to plateau in London, where hospitals have not been overwhelmed by cases and the number of deaths and patients in intensive care has remained largely flat.

He said: 'I'm cautiously optimistic that infection rates in London in that key 18 to 50 age group that has been driving the Omicron epidemic may have plateaued - but it is too early to tell if it is dropping'.

Yet in the health service, one in ten NHS employees were not in hospitals on New Year's Eve due to illness, according to official figures - but less than half had coronavirus, amounting to fewer than 50,000 of the 110,000 not in work. In care homes between 20 and 25 percent of staff are off sick or isolating in some areas.

Bins across the country are overflowing because most councils have canceled or delayed post-Christmas collections for up to a week - leaving streets littered with uncollected waste including mountains of Christmas trees - while figures showed nearly a third of rail services have been axed at some stations in recent days with special timetables introduced by most rail companies.

Councils across the UK are having to redistribute staff between essential services to keep everything running, and the public sector has been asked to prepare for a worst-case scenario of up to a quarter of staff off work.

Nearly one in ten rail staff across all train firms in the UK are thought to be off with sickness including Covid, while major engineering works on key commuter routes are scheduled to continue until midway through next week.

Ministers have been told to draw up plans for bringing in the army amid fears a wave of Omicron self-isolation could cripple key services.
Departments are being asked to consider what support they might need from the military as the New Year return to work threatens to descend into chaos.

After the latest figures showed 1,189,985 people have tested positive for Covid over the past week, NHS bosses have been sounding an alarm about rising staff absences, suggesting they are more of a problem than the number of patients.

School heads fear up to a quarter of their staff could be struck down this month, with unions warning a return to online teaching is inevitable for some this term - despite Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisting face-to-face classes will stay the norm.

Meanwhile, employees trying to return to the office today are facing skeleton rail timetables and last-minute cancellations. And businesses say they may have to shut their doors or operate shorter hours due to so many workers being in quarantine.

Rubbish bins, recycling containers and bottle banks across the country are also overflowing as councils scale back collections in response to absence levels.

According to the Times, ministers in departments that oversee critical infrastructure and supply chains have been told to prepare plans in case staff shortages require the help of the armed forces.

Help is requested through a process known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities - MACA - and officials are keen that efforts are focused as efficiently as possible.

'We didn't want different departments relying on the same MACA support,' a Whitehall insider said, pointing to the possibility that soldiers could be asked to drive ambulances as well as assist Border Force.

A senior government source told MailOnline that the MACA applications were still 'at the planning stage'.

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