A senior British minister has expressed cautious optimism that new Covid-19 restrictions will not be needed in England as infection rates in London – the center of the Omicron outbreak – begin to “plateau”.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said there was “nothing in the data” suggesting the need for new restrictions in the coming weeks.
Zahawi warned that ministers should keep an eye out because there are signs of a “leakage of infections” in the group of people over the age of 50, who are more vulnerable to hospitalization. But he told the BBC: “The good news is that they are getting a boost, the main intervention is the vaccination program and the boosters.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS providers, said there was some encouraging data from the “epicenter” of the Omicron outbreak.
“We have seen increases in the number of Covid-19 patients in London hospitals increase by 9 per cent per day, 15 per cent per day. . . in terms of 27, 28 and 29 December, ”he said.
“Interestingly enough, the increases over the past two days have only been 1 percent and 2 percent, so they have dropped quite significantly, so there is hope that we may have seen a possible peak and plateau.
Ministers will meet on Wednesday to review the existing Plan B measures introduced three weeks ago against the wishes of at least 100 Tory MPs.
Some Conservative MPs are angry that ministers announced over the weekend that students returning to secondary schools in England this week will have to wear face masks at least until 26 January. Pupils will also be tested for Covid on the spot at least once before re-entering classrooms. and was asked to take tests twice a week at home.
The government also told schools they could consider it distance learning to some pupils or combine classes if some teachers are ill.
NHS leaders have warned of a growing health emergency as hospitals struggle to maintain adequate staff with many who are ill with Covid or self-isolating because they have come into contact with infected people.
Hospitals in Lincolnshire have declared a major incident due to “extreme” and “unprecedented” staff shortages related to Covid.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals, which manages four premises in the country, said in a statement that they were taking “additional steps to maintain services” due to significant staffing issues.
Swansea’s Morriston Hospital said it could only provide a “limited service” in its emergency department over the Bank Holiday weekend due to staff shortages.
The overall rise in England’s hospitalizations over the seven days to Sunday was 75 per cent, with the North East and Yorkshire showing the biggest increase with 119 per cent.
Aside from the slowing pace of admissions in London, Hopson said the other “positive news” is that “hospitals still do not see large numbers of seriously ill elderly people. CEOs across the country are echoing colleagues in London by pointing out that Omicron outbreaks in nursing homes do not translate into hospital admissions.
“The problem for the NHS is not the size of [the] very sick older people [with] Covid case load, but the number of staff absences and general admissions with Covid on top of existing pressure, ”Hopson added. “It still stretches the NHS very significantly.”