Can the UK cope with the Omicron surge?

With evidence that the Omicron variant is less severe, the government is under pressure to go no further with restrictions, but staffing shortages and a rise in admissions have led to hospitals across England declaring ‘critical incidents’.

Science correspondent Nicola Davis tells Nosheen Iqbal that it is far too soon to declare the worst is behind us with data only now been released from a disrupted holiday period where many people changed their behaviour. It’s in the coming days or weeks that we will learn just how disruptive – and deadly – the latest wave of Covid infections will be.

But there are reasons to be optimistic too: fears that Omicron could be more harmful to children than Delta have not materialised in the UK, and there is a growing stockpile of innovative drugs that are proving effective at treating the virus and preventing deaths.

A man passes a temporary 'Nightingale' field hospital constructed in a car park of St. Georges Hospital in south London, Britain, 03 January 2022.

Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

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