Covid-19: North-east and north-west England see ‘concerning’ Omicron rise

Dr Mike Tildesley a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group, highlighted these two regions as well as the Midlands.

Ted Hennessey
Saturday 08 January 2022 16:42
Cases are ‘concerning’ in the north-east and north-west (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Cases are ‘concerning’ in the north-east and north-west (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The North East and North West of England are seeing “concerning” rates of the Omicron variant, an expert has said, amid worries over healthcare staffing and a spike in hospital admissions.

Figures showed that three of the five UK areas with the biggest week-on-week rises in Covid case rates are Middlesbrough (748.8 to 2,651.4), Copeland (1,731.3 to 3,525.8) and Redcar & Cleveland (846.8 to 2,564.3).

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) highlighted these regions, along with the Midlands as areas of concern.

He said cases in London are “slowing down”, but scientists need two weeks to see if this continues.

Hospital admissions are ‘concerning’ in the North East and North West (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Government said on Saturday that a further 313 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to 150,057,  while another 146,390 lab-confirmed cases had been recorded.

Dr Tildesley told Times Radio on Saturday: “Most other parts of the country are about two to three weeks behind where London is in their epidemic profile.

“Particularly concerning is the North East and the North West – if you look at hospital admissions in those two regions they are going up, also the Midlands, where I live, that’s also a little bit concerning, so it is a worry.

“On the slightly more positive side, so it doesn’t sound all doom and gloom, what we are seeing from hospital admissions is that stays in hospital do appear to be on average shorter, which is good news, symptoms appear to be a little bit milder, so this is what we are seeing consistently with the Omicron variant.”

In the Midlands, Northamptonshire leaders declared a system-wide major incident on Friday due to Covid-19.

Northamptonshire Local Resilience Forum, which is made up of NHS organisations, local authorities, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police, issued the alert due to “rising demand on services and staffing levels”.

However, Dr Tildesley added that Omicron is possibly the “first ray of light” in ensuring Covid-19 becomes endemic and easier to live with, similar to the common cold.

He said: “The thing that might happen in the future is you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less severe, and ultimately, in the long term, what happens is Covid becomes endemic and you have a less severe version. It’s very similar to the common cold that we’ve lived with for many years.

“We’re not quite there yet, but possibly Omicron is the first ray of light there that suggests that may happen in the longer term. It is, of course, much more transmissible than Delta was, which is concerning, but much less severe.

“Hopefully, as we move more towards the spring and we see the back of Omicron, we can get more inter-relationship of living with Covid as an endemic disease and protecting the vulnerable.

“Any variant that does emerge which is less severe, ultimately, in the longer term, is where we want to be.”

It comes as as the armed forces have stepped in to fill a staffing crisis in the NHS caused by the rapid spread of the variant.

NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).

(PA Graphics)

According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ), staff absences across the entire NHS, including mental health trusts and other areas, for any reason including Covid-19, may be as high as 120,000.

In total, there are around 9,300 armed forces available on standby.

As well as a staffing crisis, hospitals are also facing the highest number of admissions from coronavirus since last February.

A total of 18,454 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 6, Government figures show.

This is up 40% week on week and is the highest number since February 18 2021.

During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 39,254 on January 18 2021.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the Government against giving a second booster dose, or fourth jab, to care home residents and those aged over 80, after figures showed it is 90% effective against admission to hospital. Experts are looking to prioritise the rollout of the first booster dose, as well as encouraging unvaccinated people to come forward for their jabs.

The booster jab is 90% effective against admission to hospital (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Asked on Times Radio if jabs would be needed every year, Professor Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at University of Bristol and a member of the JCVI said: “I think that’s quite a likely possibility.

“And I think you know, what we’ve got at the moment, vaccines are great in terms of their ability to prevent serious disease with the current variants.

“But as we’ve seen that protection doesn’t last all that long, and it doesn’t cross-protect against new variants as they arrive. So we need to go on improving the vaccines available.

“And we need to go on adjusting what we’re doing all the time in the face of what comes up next, if you like, so it’s very much an open question as to what we will do.

“But I think use of vaccines against coronavirus is just going to be with us in the future. Yes, for sure.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in