BORIS Johnson has said he hopes to “ride out” the huge wave of Omicron cases without further restrictions in England despite “significant” numbers of people being hospitalised with the virus and putting pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister said that the UK Government is pursuing a “balanced approach” which relies on the public sticking to Plan B measures and the roll-out of the booster programme.

It comes as Johnson told a press conference that 90% of patients in intensive care with Covid had not had their booster, while around 60% had not had any dose of the vaccine.

We previously told how eight new temporary Nightingale “surge hubs” will be built across the NHS England estate, including in car parks, to act as part of a bid to create around 4000 extra beds.

READ MORE: Police investigate 'threats' made against SNP MSP Karen Adam after tweet

Today 218,000 people in the UK tested positive for Covid-19, but Johnson insisted the Omicron variant was “milder” and not translating into higher numbers of patients in ICU.

Johnson told a press briefing in Downing Street: “But our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects.

“First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 Covid patients now in hospital in England alone, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.

“Second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection, higher than any of our European neighbours, with over 34 million boosters administered, including in England reaching more than 90% of the over-70s and 86% of the over-50s.

The National:

More than 15,000 people are in hospital in England with confirmed Covid-19

“And so, together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.

“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

During the press conference, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that lower rates of people being admitted to hospital did not mean there were not “significant numbers” of patients infected with the virus.

He explained: “Lower does not mean there are not hospitalisations, there are significant numbers.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer rules out Labour pact with SNP during Birmingham speech

“Just to give some kind of feel for this, at the moment there are just over 15,000 people in hospital in England, the data for the UK is slightly later in time.

“If we went back to mid-December when we were still with the Delta wave the numbers were between 6000 and 6500. A very substantial increase.

“People are not admitted to hospital in winter unless they have a clear need for hospitalisation.”

The CMO added the data was “relatively close to the initial peak” of hospital admissions in last January, of 18,000 people.

The Covid-19 figures for January 4 show 15,044 people in hospital in England who have been confirmed to have the virus, and 1147 people in Scotland are also in hospital. Figures for Northern Ireland and Wales have not been published.

The National:

A number of hospital's in England have declared a major incident

The Prime Minister also said that 100,000 “critical workers” - in areas such as food processing, transport and Border Force - would be sent lateral flow testing kits every working day from January 10, in a bid to keep essential services open.

He added: “As the NHS moves to a war footing I will be recommending to Cabinet tomorrow we continue with Plan B because the public have responded and changed their behaviour buying valuable time to get boosters in arms.”

Whitty added that he was “saddened” by the numbers of unvaccinated people in intensive care, around 60%, with Johnson stating that it was “absolutely crazy” people were not taking up the jab.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said there are “extraordinarily high levels of infection” currently, and added that hospital pressures will depend on how the Omicron variant impacts on the older generation.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: More than 17,000 cases in second-highest number recorded

He said: “As it moves up the age range, you would expect to see more hospitalisations and we don’t know for sure how that’s going to manifest and what degree of disease.

“So I think with the degree of infection that we have got, we are going to see more hospitalisation for sure – 15,000 per day at the moment. That I expect to increase, and that of course will be associated with increased pressure and ultimately with some fatalities as well.

“I think what we now need to look for is when this peaks and starts to come down.”