Tough Covid curbs ‘needed by next week’ to save NHS from ‘5,000 patients a day’

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The NHS could be overrun by 5,000 people a day being admitted with Covid unless new curbs are brought in by next week to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, it is reported

A coronavirus patient is treated at University Hospital Southampton
NHS staff wear PPE as they treat a coronavirus patient

The UK government has been told that tougher Covid restrictions are needed as soon as next week to prevent hospitalisations from passing last winter’s peak it is reported.

Public health officials are advising that even if the rapidly spreading Omicron variant causes less serious illness than Delta, it could lead to 5,000 people being admitted to NHS hospitals per day.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was given a presentation from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) this week where he was told that “stringent action” would be needed on or before December 18 if the variant’s doubling time stays at 2.5 days, The Guardian reported.

Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, whose data was key to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, told the newspaper that projections suggest Omicron could “very substantially overwhelm the NHS, getting up to peak levels of admissions of 10,000 people per day”.

He predicted that the figure could be reached “sometime in January” if the variant is resistant to existing protection and it has a similar severity to Delta – which is not yet known.

The NHS could see 5,000 people admitted each day suffering from Covid
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“Even the best-case scenarios involve several-fold more admissions per day than we’re getting at the moment – we are at about 700 right now,” he added.

It comes as scientists say that Omicron could become the dominant variant by as soon as next week.

And the government is currently looking at putting in stricter restrictions, it is reported.

Daily Covid-19 cases have now reached their highest level in almost a year and the UKHSA predicted that, if current trends continue, the UK will exceed one million infections by the end of the month.

The UKHSA has also found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines provided “much lower” levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared to Delta.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove warned of a “deeply concerning situation” after holding a Cobra meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the latest data and the co-ordinated response across the four nations.

The government said there had been a further 58,194 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK and the last time a higher daily figure was reported was on January 9, when 59,937 cases were recorded.

An additional 448 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, bringing the total number to 1,265.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, said early data indicates that “a few months after the second jab, there is a greater risk of catching the Omicron variant compared to Delta strain”.

She added: “The data suggest this risk is significantly reduced following a booster vaccine, so I urge everyone to take up their booster when eligible.”

Gove said the Omicron variant is doubling every two to three days in England “and possibly even faster in Scotland”.

He added that 30% of reported cases in London are the new variant, and warned that evidence suggests Omicron is “more likely” than past Covid variants to “potentially” lead to hospital admissions among the fully vaccinated.

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the possibility of a “tsunami of infections” from the new variant – and said she could not rule out more restrictions north of the border as a result.

But so far Boris Johnson has “no plans” to go further with measures in England, amid claims that he is considering a Plan C with tougher restrictions.

Now under Plan B, people are required to wear masks in more indoor spaces including museums, galleries and community centres.

There will be a return to working from home guidance from Monday, and mandatory Covid passports for large venues from Wednesday.

The new regulations will be put to a debate and vote in the Commons next week – and with Labour ’s support they are certain to be approved despite the prospect of a large Conservative revolt.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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