Hospital admissions due to Covid have “peaked” in London but are increasing in the rest of the UK, a health official has warned.
Matthew Taylor, Confederation’s chief executive of the NHS, said there could be “a second peak after the new year” as figures showed admissions were down from a peak of 500 in the capital on December 29.
He told Times Radio that for many hospitals, “the most urgent item of all” was the number of staff members absent due to Covid. The latest figures show admissions to London had fallen to 314 on New Years Day.
Professor Neil Ferguson said he was “cautiously optimistic” that infections among people between the ages of 18 and 50 may have plateaued in the capital as well. However, he told the BBC it was “too early to tell if they were going to go down any further”.
Meanwhile, six NHS trusts in England have declared critical incidents of extreme staff shortages caused by an increase in Covid cases – meaning priority services may be at risk.
No10 refuses to exclude rationing of Covid tests
Downing Street refused to rule out rationing of Covid testing as it acknowledged there had been periods in recent days when testing became unavailable online.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson asked if the government was preparing to ration testing, said: “We have one of the highest testing capacities in the world, certainly the highest in Europe.
“We would obviously need to keep in mind, because the prevalence is incredibly high, what might be the right approach and we continue to seek advice as to whether this is necessary.
“As it is now, we are massively increasing the capacity for PCR and LFT (lateral flow) testing – it has doubled to 900,000 tests available per day and we want to go further and increase that. “
Pressed to know if the ministers excluded the rationing tests, the spokesperson replied: “Without trying to predict the evolution of the epidemic and this current wave in which we are, for the moment those who need the tests can obtain them and there may be times during the day when the tests are not available.
“However, the advice is that people check throughout the day so they can get a slot when it becomes available.”
More evidence emerges that Omicron is mild, says WHO
More and more evidence is emerging that the Omicron Covid variant affects the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants, a World Health Organization official said.
“We are seeing more and more studies indicating that Omicron infects the upper part of the body. Unlike others, it could cause severe pneumonia, ”WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud told reporters at a conference in Geneva on Tuesday.
However, he added that Omicron’s high transmissibility means it will become dominant within weeks in many places, posing a threat in countries where a large portion of the population is still unvaccinated.
Mr Mahamud said South Africa was an “outlier” because of its younger population and high levels of immunity.
His comments match analyzes from scientists in the UK and South Africa, who have claimed that the variant is up to 70% less likely to result in hospitalization than Delta.
Starmer: The lack of Covid tests “simply unacceptable”
Sir Keir says a lack of ‘sufficient’ Covid testing nearly two years after the start of the pandemic is ‘simply unacceptable’.
He told reporters: “It is simply unacceptable for the government to say that we do not have enough tests after two years of the pandemic.
“Lateral flow tests should be available in sufficient quantity to cope with the situation we are in now.
“Omicron was a word we hadn’t heard several weeks ago, but the idea that there would be a variant that would bypass some of the protections in place was a known threat six months ago. “
Country needs ‘better leadership’ on pandemic, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer said the country needed “better government leadership” on the pandemic.
Responding to questions after his speech in Birmingham, the Labor leader said: ‘If we are to keep our schools open, and we have to, what we need is for our schoolchildren to be vaccinated.
“Only about half of those over 12 who are eligible for vaccination have been vaccinated.
“We told the government to use the Christmas season to immunize these children. We need much better ventilation. We’ve been saying this for about a year to prevent the virus from spreading in schools. ”
Covid cases soar 400% among London seniors on Christmas
Covid cases have soared by more than 400% among older people in London over the Christmas period, an Evening Standard analysis has revealed.
The seven-day infection rate for retirees aged 85 to 89 jumped 426% in the week of Dec. 29 to 824 confirmed infections per 100,000, from a fortnight earlier.
It increased by 422 percent to 949 cases per 100,000 for the 75 to 79 age group, 406 percent for those 80 to 84, and 408 percent for those 90 and over.
The rate rose 377% in the 70-74 age group and just over 300% for Londoners aged 65-69.
You can read our full report from our political editor Nic Cecil here.
The government “asleep at the wheel” in the face of the personnel shortage crisis
The government is “asleep at the wheel” in the face of the staff shortage caused by the Omicron variant, the Liberal Democrats said.
Responding to Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup’s failure to name how many people are self-isolating in the UK, Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: ‘If ever the proof was necessary that the government sleep behind the wheel with this crisis of shortage of personnel, the vaccine the non-responses of the minister this morning sum up about everything.
“Our hospitals are at the breaking point and the schools are scattered, but the hapless ministers have no idea the true extent of the problems in these contexts.
“It is high time the government got hold of this. Families deserve reassurance that their children’s education will not be interrupted and that their loved ones can get the care they need, when they need it.
Hospital admissions increased by at least 9% between December 27 and 29, according to NHS chief
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospital admissions for coronavirus increased 9% to 15% between December 27 and 29.
However, he said that in the past three days the rate has fallen to around 3 percent.
Mr Hopson said fears raised before Christmas of a dramatic increase in the number of critically ill elderly people requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation had yet to be manifested.
He said: “There are a number of CEOs who say if we were to see this increase we probably would have seen the beginnings of it thus far, so there are some glimmers of hope.”
Watch: Omicron Covid wave may have peaked in London, says Professor Neil Ferguson
Not “certain” that future variants will cause milder disease, expert warns
It is far from “certain” that future variants of Covid will cause milder disease, a health expert has warned.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told Sky News more time is needed to assess whether the virus will become milder.
He added, “If indeed we have lingering issues with more serious disease, updated vaccines for the newer variants may be one of the ways to manage living with the virus in the future. “
Sir Andrew said the UK had not yet completely overtaken Omicron, but “generally the news is relatively good from a global perspective as it appears to be causing milder disease”.
No end to “strict” lockdown in Chinese city, officials say
Xian, a Chinese city after almost two weeks of lockdown, demands that authorities “strictly and correctly” implement Covid restrictions even as infections showed signs of slowing down.
The city, which imposed strict travel restrictions on Dec. 23, reported 95 locally transmitted cases with confirmed clinical symptoms for Monday, up slightly from 90 a day earlier, official data showed on Tuesday.
“The various works that need to be done only need to be strengthened,” said Liu Guozhong, provincial leader of the Communist Party of Shaanxi, of which Xian is the capital.
“We prefer to broaden our identification of groups at risk rather than neglecting a single person. “
China has responded to the national transmission with brutal lockdowns and mass testing, with residents of Xian being banned from leaving their residential complexes except for urgent matters approved by their community authority.