The massive rise in Covid cases means there’s a huge number of people in isolation, causing dire workforce shortages. Today the government decided to change the rules around PCR tests in England
The UK has confirmed a further 194,747 new Covid-19 cases today, with worries growing over the number of people having to isolate and miss work.
Today’s figures also confirmed 334 people died within 28 days of a positive test. The figure has seen a massive 696 per cent increase on yesterday’s deaths.
And a total of 15,659 patients are in hospital with Covid in England – a figure that’s up 49 per cent week-on-week and at its highest level since February 17, 2021.
The number of new cases shows a six per cent increase on the cases reported a week ago.
The news comes as England introduces a change to testing rules, with those who are asymptomatic but positive on a lateral flow test no longer needing a PCR to confirm their result.
Hospitalisations are also on the rise with 2,258 new patients being admitted to hospital across the past 24 hours.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant has been driving record high case rates and workforce shortages.
Phil Harris / Daily Mirror)
So far 15 hospitals have declared critical incidents due to the rise in admissions.
The latest figures come as an expert who was instrumental to the UK’s first lockdown said Covid cases should start to drop across the UK in the next one to three weeks.
Prof Ferguson, of Imperial College London and Sage member, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think I’m cautiously optimistic that infection rates in London in that key 18 to 50 age group – which has been driving the Omicron epidemic – may possibly have plateaued.
“It’s too early to say whether they’re going down yet, but I think… this epidemic has spread so quickly in that group it hasn’t had time to really spread into the older age groups, which are at much greater risk of severe outcomes and hospitalisation, so we may see a different pattern in hospitalisations.
“Hospitalisations are still generally going up across the country and we may see high levels for some weeks.
“I would say that, with an epidemic which has been spreading so quickly and reaching such high numbers, it can’t sustain those numbers forever, so we would expect to see case numbers start to come down in the next week, maybe already coming down in London, but in other regions a week to three weeks.
“Whether they then drop precipitously, or we see a pattern a bit like we saw with Delta back in July of an initial drop and then quite a high plateau, remains to be seen.
“It’s just too difficult to interpret current mixing trends and what the effect of opening schools again will be.”
It is looking doubtful the Prime Minister will introduce any new curbs on life in the UK to stem the rapidly growing numbers.
Currently the government has imposed “Plan B”, which involves advising people to work from home, ordering masks on public transport and shops, and forcing punters at nightclubs and other venues to prove they’ve had a vaccine or negative test.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup insisted Plan B “is working”, pointing to figures showing fewer Covid-19 patients are in hospital compared with last year.
The UK Health Security Agency has agreed a change in policy for millions of people who test positive for the virus by lateral flow.
The change will take effect from January 11 in England, and from tomorrow in Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland’s rules will similarly change.
Currently, anyone who tests positive using a lateral flow test (LFT) has to get a follow-up PCR test to confirm their result.
After the rule change, people who test positive with no symptoms – said to account for around 40% of people with Covid – will no longer need this follow-up PCR test.
They will still have to isolate for at least seven days, but only from the date of their positive lateral flow test.
The change – last performed in January-March 2021 – will effectively cut the isolation time because it takes a couple of days to get and await the result of a PCR test. This could ease crippling staff shortages including in the NHS.
It will also ease the demand for PCR tests after people struggled to get appointments in the Omicron wave.