The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 is rising markedly, it has been warned, with another hospital suspending visitors “due to health and safety issues”.
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the council at the British Medical Association, told Sky News: “The worrying thing is that we are seeing a significant increase in the number of people in the hospital.
“In fact, the number of hospitalized and also the number of patients in the hospital from yesterday is at a level as high as during the closure earlier this year in the spring, in February-March.
“Now it’s a significant number, and it’s increasing, so while the proportion of people who end up in hospital as a result of Omicron is smaller, we’re definitely seeing significant increases.”
Dr. Nagpaul said 25,000 patients were admitted with COVID-19 in the four-week period leading up to Christmas, and he said those admissions have prevented six million people on the NHS waiting list from being treated.
When asked whether these admissions were individuals who had been taken to the hospital due to coronavirus or for other health reasons and “happened to have COVID”, Dr. Nagpaul: “It’s a very good question, and it’s actually data I do not have and data. It’s really important to be made available, because I totally agree that we need to distinguish between the two.”
Fresh NHS figures on hospital admissions in the UK are due to be released today.
Northampton General Hospital was the latest to suspend visitors on Friday, except in limited circumstances, due to concerns about rising COVID cases.
Health, well-being and safety for all our employees, including patients and colleagues, remain our top priority. We have therefore made the difficult decision to cancel the visit to the hospital from today, Friday 31 December.
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– Northampton General Hospital (@NGHnhstrust) December 31, 2021
In a series of Twitter posts, the hospital confirmed the move and apologized “for having to take this step as we are fully aware of the impact it is having on our patients and those close to them to stop the visit”.
The hospital promised to establish virtual visiting facilities.
Bath Royal United Hospital and Great Western Hospital in Swindon have also this week suspended visitors, except in exceptional circumstances, due to rising coronavirus infections.
There were also further signs of pressure on the NHS workforce due to COVID.
New figures from NHS England showed that a total of 4,580 NHS employees at hospital funds in London were absent due to coronavirus on Christmas Day, an increase of 18% compared to the previous week (3,874) and almost four times the number at the beginning of the month (1,174)).
The number reached as high as 5,994 on December 23rd. The total number includes staff who were ill with coronavirus or who had to isolate themselves.
Across the UK as a whole, 24,632 NHS employees at hospital associations were absent due to COVID reasons on 26 December, an increase of 31% from 18,829 a week earlier and almost double the number at the beginning of the month (12,508) .
As Britain prepares for New Year’s celebrations tonight – with parties allowed in England but restrictions on assemblies in both Wales and Scotland – access to lateral flow and PCR testing remains difficult.
A lack of lateral flow testing means that those who want to mingle with others at nightclubs, pubs and home parties are faced with doing so without knowing if they are COVID-positive.
Lateral flow tests are available for order on the government portal, but it may take days to arrive, and Health Minister Sajid Javid yesterday warned that supplies may have to be “limited” further due to demand.
PCR tests can be ordered on the government website, but the results usually take around 24 hours.
Some in Scotland and Wales plan to cross the border into England to avoid the stricter COVID rules in their countries when celebrating the New Year.
Mark Jones, landlord at the Stanton House Inn in Chirk, Wales, which is less than a mile from the English border, told Sky News that some of his regular customers have reserved minibuses to celebrate it in England.
And Margaret Straughan, the hostess of the Brewers Arms in Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1.5 miles from the Scottish border in Northumberland, predicted a “very busy” evening with some of her customers coming from Scotland.
A leading scientist has urged people to take care of New Year’s Eve and warned that the Omicron variant “has ended up being so contagious that it almost only needs a whiff of infected breath and you could get infected”.
Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), told the BBC: “We are really lucky that it was not so contagious when it first went into human-to-human transmission. “
And the head of the NHS Providers has warned that even if the government imposes extra restrictions in the UK, it will take two weeks to reduce the hospitalization rate.
As eight hospital funds set up new Nightingale “surge hubs” in preparation for an influx of COVID patients, Chris Hopson told Radio 4’s Today program that “we still do not know if an increase will come, and we are actually talking about the preparations we are making for that increase right now”.
He added: “It is worth remembering that it takes about two weeks before new restrictions affect the level of hospital admissions, so the pattern of hospital admissions for the next fourteen days has already been determined.”