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Covid: Number of people hospitalised with virus soars experts suggest return of masks and testing

There were 6,720 people in hospital with the virus on 14 December

Thomas Kingsley
Friday 16 December 2022 11:17 GMT
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The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in England has increased 22 per cent in a week.

There were 6,720 people in hospital with the virus on 14 December, up from 5,501 on 7 December, according to data released by NHS England.

The number of mechanical ventilation beds occupied by confirmed Covid patients rose from 129 to 150 over the same period.

The scale of the increase varies by region. The number of beds occupied by Covid patients in the south-west rose from 466 to 726, a 56 per cent increase.

NHS Covid doctor Dr Daniel Goyal said the rise in hospitalisations is “very concerning” and warned that rising cases is exacerbating the “worst healthcare crisis that any of us have ever experienced.”

"Part of the greater concern is the number of patients who are contracting covid in the hospital settings,” Dr Goyal told The Independent.

"What we’re seeing is people picking up Covid in hospital then being delayed from going home adding more pressure to the service.

“It brings the question as to why we haven’t done anything significant to try and reduce transmission.”

Dr Goyal said in the run-up to Christmas there should be stronger public health messaging about the benefits of wearing a good face mask in communal spaces and crowded spaces.

He added that the public should consider wearing face masks in Christmas gatherings where vulnerable family members are present.

Covid hospitalisations are also rising alongside flu transmission resulting in flu admissions in hospitals in England overtaking those for people with Covid-19 for the first time since the pandemic began, figures show.

Covid cases have been on a rise through December (Getty/The Independent)

The rate of flu admissions stood at 6.8 per 100,000 people in the week to 11 December, compared with 6.6 per 100,000 for Covid-19.

Both levels are currently rising, but the rate of flu admissions has jumped sharply week-on-week - nearly doubling from 3.9 per 100,000 - while Covid-19 admissions are climbing more slowly.

The figures are the latest sign that flu is becoming steadily more prevalent among the population.

Hospital admissions of people with flu are now running at a higher rate than in any week during the previous four winters, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Admissions are highest among those aged 85 and over, at 23.1 per 100,000 people, up week-on-week from 10.7.

There has been a similarly large jump in the rate among children aged four and under, from 8.4 to 20.7.

All children aged two and three are eligible for a flu nasal spray vaccine, which is being offered by local GPs.

But only 37.4 per cent of two-year-olds have received the vaccine so far, along with 39.5 per cent of three-year-olds - well below the take-up reached at this point in previous winters.

Professor Majeed Azeem, head of public health at Imperial College said that the UK currently faced a double threat of Covid and flu, encouraging the public to get vaccinated against both viruses.

He added that while it’s unlikely people will scale back their festive plans amid rising hospital admissions, people should consider getting tested before visiting elderly family members for Christmas gatherings.

It comes as nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland today started strike action in a row over pay after talks with the government broke down.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line outside the Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool (PA)

The nursing union was urged to do more to “avoid patient harm” and “alleviate unnecessary distress” for dying patients on strike days by the UK's four chief nurses and the NHS's head of cancer care.

Sir Keir Starmer has urged Rishi Sunak to negotiate with nurses over pay as he labelled the impending strike a “badge of shame” for his government.

The Labour leader accused the prime minister of entering “hibernation” rather than working to get Thursday's first ever nationwide strike of nurses called off.

There were no talks between health secretary Steven Barclay and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) scheduled after they fell apart on Monday.

Further data from NHS England reveals that the number of people primarily being treated for Covid in acute trusts increased by 17 per cent between 6 and 13 December from 5,096 to 5,982.

The data chimes with figures from the Office for National Statistics that suggests Covid infection levels are on the rise in England again, with 1.73 per cent, or 1 in 60, people in the community estimated to have the virus in the week ending 26 November, up from 1.60 per cent the previous week.

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