UK Covid cases soar by 50% in a week to 90,600 but hospitalisations still flat


Boris Johnson has declined to introduce any further Covid measures in England despite both Wales and Scotland attempting to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant

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Covid: What are the current restrictions over the Christmas period?

The third highest number of coronavirus cases ever over 24 hours has been recorded in the UK.

A further 90,629 infections were logged today, up from 59,610 last Tuesday, while 172 more people lost their lives to Covid-19.

The total today helps to paint an increasingly grim picture that has been emerging since Omicron was first detected on British shores last month – although hospitalisations remain fairly flat nationally.

Yesterday a further 91,743 Covid cases were clocked, the second highest daily total since the pandemic began, and considerably up on last Monday when 54,661 cases were recorded.

Infections reached an all-time high on December 17 with 93,045 logged.

As yet the number of people being admitted to hospital each day with Covid-19 is not trending upwards in a significant manner, and the number of lives lost to the disease is following a similar trend.

While it is likely that hospitalisations and deaths will rise in the coming weeks once the time lag from infections is realised, by how much remains unclear due to the newness of Omicron.

NHS staff are preparing themselves for the worst as the festive season begins in proper.

Social activities over the festive period will likely push cases higher still
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The Royal College of Nursing said nurses are “already physically and emotionally exhausted” by the pandemic but staff shortages due to Covid-19 mean they are now wondering “What is coming?”

According to NHS data, staff absences at NHS acute trusts due to Covid or self-isolation increased by 18% from 11,375 on November 29 to 13,468 on December 9. The figures then fell back to 12,240 on December 12 – lower than the absences at the start of the month.

The picture looks bleak across London, where Omicron cases continue to rise. On December 12, staff absences had risen by 31% from the start of the month to 1,540 from 1,174.

Due to the most recent data not yet being available, the statistics published by the NHS do not yet show the full impact of the Omicron variant on staffing.

However, NHS providers say hospital trusts in the capital saw a rise of 140% in staff absences between December 12 and 16.

On Monday, a further 91,743 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK, and another 44 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said there were not enough staff to deliver what was needed before the pandemic, with rising infections causing more concern.

It is unclear how high deaths will go due to the vaccine campaign and emergence of Omicron
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Patricia Marquis, England director at the RCN, said: “The next few weeks paint a very bleak picture for nursing staff who are already physically and emotionally exhausted by what has happened throughout the pandemic.

“In many places they are already starting to go off sick themselves with Covid-19, but also mental and physical exhaustion.

“Before the pandemic, there weren’t enough staff to deliver what was needed. Staff are now looking forward thinking ‘Oh my goodness, what is coming?”‘

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said staff absences are expected to rise along with pressure on the NHS.

He said: “Trust leaders are concerned about the weeks ahead, as Covid-19 cases reach a record high, due to the higher transmissibility of Omicron.

“On top of the usual staff shortages, many NHS staff are now absent from work due to either sickness or self-isolation. In London, Covid-related NHS absences increased by 140% between 12 and 16 December.

“This is expected to rise in the weeks ahead, with a few trusts in the capital already describing the real pressure this is adding to the service.

Nurses and doctors are braced for a tough winter

“The impact on the workloads of remaining staff – who are already working incredibly hard given the huge demands on the service – is a major concern.

“Unlike last January, trusts are not only dealing with Covid-19 care, but also seeing real pressure on emergency care, tackling a significant backlog of routine care, and accelerating and expanding the vaccination campaign.

“Any decision to stand down or reduce services will only be taken as a last resort and will be based on clinical risk to ensure the best possible care for everyone.”

NHS Employers said if cases continue to rise at a rapid rate, widescale disruption is inevitable.

Chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “Our members are working hard to minimise disruption to patient care and they are enormously grateful to the countless staff who are altering their plans to work extra hours and shifts, as well as helping out with other teams, including those delivering vaccinations.

“The NHS will continue to prioritise essential care and it is vaccinating at record levels against coronavirus, but if cases continue to rise at this rapid rate, sadly widescale disruption is inevitable.

“We expect the Government to act quickly in response to the data and modelling it has and for the public to continue to do everything they can to keep transmission down.

“This isn’t just about protecting the NHS – it’s about protecting ourselves, our friends and family and each other more generally.”

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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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