Government departments are considering whether military aid might be required to combat staff absences caused by covid.
The prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed that all Whitehall departments had been asked to look at how they could mitigate “large-scale absences”.
It follows reports that cabinet ministers have been told to draw up plans for when sectors in their brief will need military help due to the level of key workers forced into self-isolation.
The highly transmissible, although milder, Omicron strain is spreading throughout the UK and threatening to wipe out workers in vital sectors.
Downing Street said departments were considering whether military aid to the civil authorities (Maca) requests would be useful, but there was no blanket requirement to do so.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “All departments have been asked to look at how they would mitigate against large-scale absences across their relevant workforces, up to 25 per cent.
“In some circumstances that might require making a Maca request, a military aid request, in other circumstances it might not. There is no blanket requirement for military aid.”
Omicron is affecting regions across the country at the same time, unlike during previous flash points in the pandemic when regional services under strain could rely on help from other areas coping better.
However, a senior government source quoted in the Times, said: “What’s different this time is the virus is spreading very quickly so different regions could be hit at the same time so their capacity to offer mutual aid will be impacted.
“So departments have been tasked to look at their plans afresh in light of different characteristics of previous strings of virus.”