Wave of closures shuts off vital services as Omicron continues to ravage the UK

After around 3.7 million people in the UK had Covid in the week ending December 31, crippling staff shortages have now brought many vital public services to their knees.

Businesses claim 1.3 million workers are stuck in isolation – a problem which means key rail services and bin collections have ground to a halt.

Hundreds of care homes are now blocking new admissions, meaning already embattled hospitals are unable to discharge frail patients.

MHA, one of the UK’s largest care providers, says 70 percent of homes are not accepting new residents – while Four Seasons Healthcare says 40 percent of its own homes have two or more virus cases, so legally they must refuse new arrivals.

Meanwhile, the North East Ambulance Service has urged relatives to drive “non-life threatened” patients, to hospital due to long waits for paramedics. Incredibly, fire brigades have been affected as well – with Gosport fire station having no rostered firefighters available on the night of December 28.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service had around 40 people selfisolating as of December 28.

Fire Brigades Union spokesman Mark Chapman described the current workforce as “absolutely threadbare”.

Hospitals are at the heart of the crisis, with more than 20 English NHS trusts declaring critical incidents so far. Nonurgent surgery has been halted at Greater Manchester’s 17 hospitals due to 15 percent of staff being unable to work.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has suspended all visitors at its two main hospital sites. After as many as one in five teachers had to stay at home, some schools are closing or telling year groups to stay away.

King Charles I School in Kidderminster is closed to Year 7 and 8 students – and Outwood Academy in Ormesby, Middlesbrough warned Year 9 and 10 pupils to study remotely.

Heads say delayed deliveries of tests have caused chaos, with Geoff Barton, general secretary of heads’ union ASCL, adding: “It is clearly imperative that schools and colleges have enough test kits to follow the government guidance.”

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