Britons warned of hospital crisis as virus cases hit new high

Published January 5, 2022
Workers travel on a Jubilee Line underground train during the morning rush-hour in London, Britain, January 4. — Reuters
Workers travel on a Jubilee Line underground train during the morning rush-hour in London, Britain, January 4. — Reuters

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday faced warnings of an impending hospital crisis due to staff shortages caused by a wave of Omicron infections, as the country’s daily Covid caseload breached 200,000 for the first time.

The 24-hour tally, after chalking up multiple records in the run-up to New Year, hit 218,724 and another 48 deaths were reported in the latest government data.

Hospital admissions have not hit anything like the peaks of previous waves of the pandemic and the number of people requiring ventilation has remained flat so far.

But the state-run National Health Service (NHS) is struggling with staff forced to stay at home after testing positive, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised action to plug staffing gaps in the worst-hit areas. Transport networks also battled absences, leaving commuters facing long waits on their return to work after a public holiday on Monday, while municipal services such as household bin collections were hampered.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said it was unclear how many Britons were currently in self-isolation after a Christmas surge in the highly transmissible virus mutation. “But what is good news, it doesn’t seem to be resulting in severe diseases as some of the other variants did,” she told Sky News.

Around 50,000 NHS staff were absent from work last week because they were ill or self-isolating, The Sunday Times has reported.

At least six hospital trusts have declared critical incidents, which mean crucial services may be under threat. “This is the NHS which is rightly responding to an incredibly challenging time,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

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