Health chief issues warning over Covid hospital admissions, as case numbers soar

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The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a warning over Covid hospital admissions, as case numbers continue to rise.

The latest statistics show that Covid cases have soared by 32% in a week. Dame Jenny Harries suggested that hospital admissions are expected to rise following a sharp increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 across the UK. Despite the leap in case numbers, Dame Jenny has advised people not to panic, but to go “about their normal lives” in a “precautionary way.”

Covid cases are on the rise in all parts of the country due to the increased prevalence of subvariants of Omicron known as B.4 and B.5. These variants are thought to spread faster than other variants. Case numbers rose by around 500,000 in a week, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. 

In England, at the end of the week beginning June 27th, 9,000 people were in hospital with Covid-19. This represents an increase of around 50% in hospital admissions since the start of the month. There are currently approximately 2.3 million people with Covid in the UK, which represents 1 in 30 people. 
Talking to the BBC, Dame Jenny Harries said that the current wave of Omicron B.4 and B.5 has not finished, which means that there is likely to be an increase in hospital admissions in the coming weeks. It is possible that hospital admissions could reach a higher peak than during the Omicron B.2 wave in the spring, but it’s difficult to predict the “overall impact” at the moment. 

Dame Jenny indicated that there is some evidence to suggest that the vaccines are slightly less effective on these variants, but for the vast majority of people, vaccination will keep them “safe from severe disease and out of hospital.”

As figures spiked in the last week, Dame Jenny encouraged people to exercise caution and keep up with preventative practices, such as frequent, thorough hand washing, wearing a face covering in crowded places and maintaining a safe distance from others where possible. She also urged people who do have symptoms to stay at home to reduce the risk of transmission. In light of the latest ONS figures, health experts are encouraging anyone who is eligible for a vaccine that hasn’t yet come forward for their first or second dose or a booster to have the jab. Over 75s who haven’t had the fourth dose are also urged to arrange an appointment or visit a drop-in clinic. Vaccination offers robust protection against all the variants currently circulating in the UK, helping to reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths. Dr Mary Ramsay, director of clinical programmes at the UKHSA, said that around 16% of over 75s have not had a vaccine or booster jab in the last six months. 

Figures released on June 30th show that Covid is most prevalent in Scotland, where 1 in 18 people would test positive. In England and Wales, the figure is 1 in 30 people, and in Northern Ireland, 1 in 25 people would record positive results. Analysis in England indicates that case numbers are rising in every region among every age group. 

Hospital data shows that the number of patients receiving treatment in intensive care has risen from 111 at the beginning of June to 211 on June 30th. These numbers are significantly lower than during previous peaks. In January 2021, there were over 3,700 people in intensive care with Covid.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UKHSA, explained that many people are experiencing illness for up to 10 days, with symptoms that are much worse than a bad cold. She advised people who do feel unwell to avoid socialising and attending events, such as festivals, concerts and indoor gatherings, to protect others. The risk of transmission increases indoors and in large groups of people.