Ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike days before Christmas
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An expert has torn the Government apart for being “well off the pace” in its efforts to prevent another wave of Covid after cases of people with the virus in hospital in England shot up by 22 percent in one week. The latest figures from NHS England have revealed that were 6,720 people in hospital with the virus on December 14, up from 5,501 on December 7, a 22 percent rise. And the number of Covid patients on mechanical ventilation beds rose from 129 to 150 over the same period.
Hospital admissions of people with Covid have also gone up. There were 5,250 in the seven days to 14 December, a 28 percent increase rise from the 4,113 the week before on December 7.
Dr Stephen Griffin, from the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, told Express.co.uk this rise has not come out of nowhere, noting that more mixing due to various events and the time of year has made rising cases far more likely.
He told Express.co.uk: “The rise in SARS-CoV2 cases we are seeing has been predictable for some time. It is happening for two main reasons – first, with the weather becoming more wintry, we are spending much more time indoors, plus the festive season and the world cup has likely led to more mixing and close contact.
“Sadly, little has been done to improve air quality in the majority of public spaces, public transport, or hospitality venues. We are also less aware of prevalence because testing rates have plummeted since the withdrawal of free lateral flow tests.
“Linked to this, we are increasingly hearing that even teachers are being told that they should return to work despite being positive. Accordingly, secondary schools are amongst the fasted growing in terms of cases (ONS, December 9).”
Dr Griffin also explained that new subvariants of the virus are also making the disease more difficult to manage, while the majority of the population has also not received a vaccine for many months.
He said: “The second main reason is that new omicron subvariants are increasingly dominant and they are even more capable of evading antibody responses than even BA.4/5 were over the summer.
“This is important because many of us will not have had a vaccine for some time now, meaning that antibody levels in the blood have naturally declined. The booster programme targeted at the elderly and clinically vulnerable has sadly faltered for the age groups under 70 in particular – only around half of 50-59 year olds have taken up this offer.”
But according to Dr Griffin, the Government could have done much more to prepare for this situation and accused it of downplaying the threat of the virus, describing the high levels of the illness in children as “shocking”.
He said: “The Government ought not to be surprised by this; if you spend most of the time saying a disease is nothing to worry about, it follows that people will be less inclined to understand the need for booster vaccinations.
“The fact that a large number of especially younger adults and children remain unprotected by vaccines, the offer has been withdrawn from children turning 5 since September, and the MHRA-approved vaccines for under 5s remain to be reviewed, speaks to the UK yet again being well off the pace in terms of vaccine coverage. The level of reinfections and prevalence amongst younger people is shocking as a result.”
The expert urged the Government to introduce some restrictions, arguing that a lack thereof is threatening to see the current wave keep on increasing, hitting out at the Government for an “abdication of public health responsibility”.
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Dr Griffin said:”I can see no reason why the forthcoming wave will not continue to increase.We have no sensible mitigations in place that would allow us to interact in a safer way. We have been left with a culture based upon self-assessment of individual risk, which cannot possibly be an informed assessment given the lack of testing, and no societal or infrastructure improvements or investment as is happening in other countries.
“Essentially, mass-infection is being allowed to happen, which is an abdication of public health responsibility by this Government. Given the other respiratory virus infections, and other illnesses, that are spreading rampantly at present, it seems clear that the cost of doing nothing will take its toll in the coming weeks.”
As well as NHS England’s data, figures from the Office for National Statistics also suggest that Covid infection levels are on the rise in England once more. 1.73 percent (1 in 60 people) in the community were thought to have the virus in the week ending November 26, up from 1.60 percent the week before.
The rise also comes as nurses from several hospitals hit the picket lines on Thursday in the first strike in the NHS’ 74-year history due to for not receiving a pay rise in line with inflation, and being overworked and overwhelmed by staff shortages.
Express.co.uk has contacted the Government’s health department for comment.
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