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NHS waiting list breaches 5MILLION for first time ever

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More than 5million people in England are now waiting for NHS hospital treatment — the highest number ever recorded. 

Official data released today showed the number now stands at 5.12million, and has risen consistently since the Covid pandemic began.

Statistics released for the first time also revealed the true extent of the NHS backlog, with almost 65,000 patients waiting at least 18 months for routine operations, such as hip and knee replacements.

Around 2,700 patients haven’t been treated within two years.

Critics today slammed the ‘grim milestone’, calling on ministers to make tackling the ‘gigantic’ backlog their top priority. The Royal College of Surgeons called the data on patients waiting at least one year ‘particularly troubling’.

Hospitals turned their attention to treating coronavirus patients during the first and second waves, cancelling thousands of non-urgent procedures. 

Health chiefs fear non-Covid care could be threatened again if the Indian variant’s rapid spread — which has left hopes of ‘Freedom Day’ going ahead on a knife-edge — causes hospital admissions to spike. 

Vaccines have broken the link between cases and serious illness, but SAGE advisers still fear the mutant strain could trigger a ‘substantial’ third wave.

Millions of over-50s have yet to be fully vaccinated and data shows a single dose is slightly less effective against the Delta variant, which has bolstered calls for No10 to delay June 21 to give the NHS more time to dish out top-up jabs.  

The number of people on the NHS waiting lists hit its highest-ever number of 5.12million

 

Meanwhile, NHS England data showed the number of patients waiting over a year for care reached 385,940 in April. 

This was a drop of 50,000 from March — but is still 240 times higher than the 1,613 who were forced to wait that long before the first wave hit.

Figures show that 223,780 people were admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in April, compared to 41,121 patients in the same month last year — when Covid began to batter the NHS.

Separate NHS England figures released today showed over 2million people attended A&E in May, the highest number since January 2020. 

The number A&E visits dropped to 916,575 in April 2020, marking the lowest number since records began in 2010, as people stayed at home in the first lockdown out of fear of catching Covid.

Number of Brits falling ill with Covid every day more than DOUBLES in a week to nearly 12,000 

The number of Britons falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK, a symptom-tracking study warned today.

An estimated 11,908 people across the UK were catching the virus every day in the week ending June 5, according to the ZOE Covid study, up 109 per cent from 5,677 last week.

The troubling figures add to mounting fears about England’s planned final lockdown easing on June 21 ‘Freedom Day’, with the scientist behind the surveillance study admitting the situation ‘has rapidly changed’ in the face of the mutant ‘Delta’ strain.

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, said the spiralling case numbers were caused by ‘increased social interaction and a newly dominant variant that is much more transmissible’.

But he added: ‘It’s clear that this is an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the UK and, due to the way vaccines have been rolled out, is largely affecting younger generations.

‘Vaccines are working and we want to encourage people to exercise caution, especially if they feel at all unwell, until they’ve been fully vaccinated. The race is on to fully vaccinate the whole population to save lives and return to normal life.’

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before.

This was despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out. Data also showed the number of people taking rapid Covid tests has fallen to its lowest level for three months – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week.

No10’s top scientists fear the mutant Indian strain could be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the once dominant Kent version and SAGE modellers fear it will trigger a ‘substantial’ third wave — despite three-quarters of adults having been vaccinated.

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the highest number of people attending the emergency department each month did not rise above 1.8million.

The NHS data also shows that GPs made 209,452 urgent cancer referrals in April, more than double the previous year’s number of 80,031.

Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present – though not initially suspected – were up from 3,866 in April 2020 to 14,259 in April 2021. 

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said it is ‘encouraging’ that the data shows routine operations, cancer and mental health care have ‘rebounded sharply’ following the ‘extensive disruption’ caused by the pandemic.

He said the NHS is ‘committed to restoring services to pre-pandemic levels’ .

But critics slammed the figures.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has urged the government to make fixing waiting times their ‘top priority’.

Its vice president Tim Mitchell said: ‘Today we have sadly reached the grim milestone in England of more than 5million people on the NHS hospital waiting list.

‘Really long waits of more than a year, and in some cases more than two years, are particularly troubling. These are people waiting for operations like hip and knee replacements, or ear, nose and throat surgery.

‘This is life-changing surgery we’re talking about. Operations that can help people get back to work, that relieve pain and mean people can enjoy a decent quality of life again.

‘Surgery in many hospitals is almost at pre-pandemic levels, thanks to staff working Saturdays and evenings to catch up even though many of them are exhausted from the experience of the last year.’

He added: ‘Tackling this gigantic backlog requires new investment both in staff and infrastructure.’

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said the waiting times reinforce the party’s call for an NHS rescue plan.

‘The reality is years of Tory underfunding and cuts across health care left our NHS weakened and exposed entering the pandemic with patients now left waiting even longer in pain and anxiety for treatment,’ he said.

Chris Hopson, chief of NHS Providers, warned yesterday that if there is a surge in the number of people infected with Covid once the latest lockdown restrictions are lifted, other care services could suffer.

He told Times Radio that ‘trade-offs’ will need to be made, as further lifting restrictions will lead to higher levels of hospitalisation and morality.

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said health service staff have achieved a ‘phenomenal amount’ working throughout the pandemic and simultaneously rolling out the vaccine programmer.

But pressure on the NHS is ‘once again growing’, as over 1,000 people are now in hospital, he said. 

The prime minister ‘now faces a very big decision’, because no matter the size of a third wave, it will impact the services the NHS can provide, Mr Mortimer said.

NHS Providers chief Chris Hopso warned that another surge in Covid infections could lead other care services to suffer

‘If the data gives rise to any doubt, health leaders would urge him to take decisive action and delay the final lifting of lockdown restrictions,’ he added.

Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said ‘warning signs about where the NHS was heading were glaringly visible a number of years ago and what we are seeing in recent monthly data is the result of a lack of preparedness for the inevitable’.

The country is in ‘a dire state’ for treatment waiting times and the four-hour target for seeing A&E patients ‘has not been met for years now with little to no change in approach’, he said. 

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the ‘monumental delays’ have likely contributed to the thousands of extra heart disease and stroke deaths in England during the pandemic.

Tracey Loftis, head of policy and public affairs at Versus Arthritis, said people with arthritis are ‘bearing the brunt’ of the crisis as they wait for joint replacement surgery.

‘It is critical that people with arthritis are not left struggling in pain with their lives put on hold. 

‘As longer waits lead to more severe joint damage and reduce the chance of future operations being successful, this issue becomes even more unacceptable,’ she said. 

Meanwhile, a review of NHS data by consultancy firm Lane Clark & Peacock found that there are 25 times more people in certain parts of the country that have waited over a year for NHS treatment, compared to other areas.

Castle Point and Rochford in Essex had the highest proportion of people waiting over 52 weeks for care, with 573 people per 100,000.

But in south-west London, there was just 24 per 100,000.

Behind Castle Point and Rochford, Southend, Blackpool, Waltham Forest and Norfolk had the next highest proportion of people waiting longer than a year, ranging from 461 to 419 per 100,000.

The firm found that people facing the longest waits were waiting for orthopedic treatment, such as hip and knee replacements.  

Many of these types of operations were postponed during the pandemic, as hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid patients, causing waiting lists to spiral.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Routine childhood vaccinations plummeted during the early days of pandemic, CDC report finds

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Childhood vaccinations were a casualty of the spring 2020 lockdowns, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds.

Vaccination rates for children under two years old fell by about 20 percent while rates for older children fell by over 60 percent between March and May 2020 

The rate for DtaP shots – including diphtheria and tetanus – fell by 38 percent overall compared to 2018-2019, while the rate for MMR shots – measles, mumps, and rubella – fell by 43 percent.

Though immunization rates rose in the summer of 2020 after lockdown orders lifted, the increase wasn’t enough to catch up the kids who missed their shot earlier in the year.

This lack of catch-up vaccinations ‘might pose a serious public health threat’ because disease outbreaks could threaten school reopenings and other post-COVID recovery efforts, the CDC researchers say.

Childhood vaccinations fell during the spring 2020 stay-at-home orders, the CDC found

MMR vaccination rates – including measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines – dropped during spring 2020 and did not rise enough to make up for the difference in the summer

The U.D. has made great strides towards reducing infectious disease outbreaks in recent decades thanks to childhood vaccinations.

‘Before the measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, the virus infected at least two million Americans a year,’ Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease exprt, wrote in 2019. 

This virus caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations each year.

The COVID pandemic threatened progress against measles and other diseases the new report confirms.

While the spring 2020 lockdowns did reduce COVID cases and prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, they had consequences for other aspects of U.S. public health.

People suffered from mental health issues, opioid overdoses increased, and birth rates dropped – among other negative impacts.

Human papillomavirus (or HPV) vaccinations fell by over 80 percent in some states

Childhood vaccinations were another casualty of the lockdowns.

The CDC analyzed vaccine administration data from ten U.S. jurisdictions with detailed reports available from March to September 2020.

These jurisdictions included Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York City, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

All ten jurisdictions had significantly lower vaccination rates from March to May 2020 – when most states had stay-at-home orders in place. 

Out of the nine states included in the study, only Iowa and North Dakota didn’t issue stay-at-home orders.

The CDC looked at four categories of childhood vaccinations.

For DTaP vaccines – which include diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis – the vaccination rate fell by 16 percent for children under two years old and by 60 percent for children from two to six years old.

That’s an average drop of 38 percent  compared to the same months in 2018 and 2019.

For MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines, the vaccination rate fell by 22 percent for children 12 to 23 months old and by 63 percent for children two to eight years old, with an average drop of 43 percent overall.

Vaccination rates dropped more for those vaccines administered to older children, like HPV

Vaccination rates dropped even further for those childhood vaccines administered to older children.

The administration rate for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine dropped by 67 percent for children ages nine to 17. 

And the rate for the TdaP vaccines – tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis – fell by 64 percent for children in that same age group.

After stay-at-home orders were lifted in the summer, childhood vaccination rates rose. 

Rates for most vaccines approached – or even surpassed – pre-pandemic numbers between June and September 2020.

But the increases weren’t high or sustained enough to catch up those children who missed their vaccinations in the spring. 

Many states saw further COVID outbreaks over the summer, and many parents still feared that they would become infected in a doctor’s office or while traveling to an appointment.

Plus, thousands of school districts remained in remote or hybrid learning through the 2020-2021 school year – meaning they may not have enforced immunization requirements.

 

Still, the continued childhood vaccination lag worries public health experts. 

The CDC researchers describe these vaccinations as a ‘critical frontline tool’ against infectious disease outbreaks and that even a temporary decline can compromise herd immunity.

They reference an infamous measles outbreak that hit Rockland County, New York in 2018 and 2019.

 Vaccination coverage for the impacted schools was 77 percent – a high number compared to COVID vaccination rates, but far below the 93 percent required for herd immunity against measles.

If children don’t get their vaccinations done soon, schools may face similar outbreaks in the coming school year – the researchers call this a ‘serious public health threat.’

Outbreaks of measles and other diseases could derail reopening efforts, causing further school closures for kids whose communities finally recovered from COVID. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Britain hit by MONKEYPOX: Two patients in North Wales test positive for killer virus

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Two cases of the rare monkeypox virus have been confirm in the UK, Matt Hancock has revealed.

Giving evidence to MPs today on the handling of the pandemic, the health secretary casually said the killer virus had been spotted.

Public Health Wales subsequently confirmed in a statement that two people from the same household in North Wales picked up the virus abroad and were admitted to hospital in England. 

It confirmed that one of the people infected with monkeypox is still in hospital, but did not give further details of their location or condition.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease which causes a blistering skin rash, headaches, back pain and flu-like symptoms. It is caused by a virus spread by monkeys, rats, squirrels and other small mammals.

The illness can spread between people either by skin-to-skin contact, coughs and sneezes or by touching contaminated clothes or bedding. But human-to-human contact is ‘relatively limited’, according to the the World Health Organization said.

Monkeypox can be caught from various mammals including monkeys and rats and causes skin spots which then turn to blisters and can take weeks to clear up  (stock image)

Giving evidence to MPs today on the handling of the pandemic, the health secretary casually confirmed the killer virus had been spotted

Discussing the trace and isolation system, Mr Hancock said it was ‘essentially built for very important, but very small outbreaks’.

‘As health secretary you are dealing with these sorts of outbreaks all the time. I am currently dealing with a monkeypox outbreak and cases of drug-resistant TB and that is absolutely standard,’ he said.

The Welsh health body said it and Public Health England are monitoring the two cases of the virus. 

‘The index case was acquired overseas, and the two cases are members of the same household. Both cases were admitted to a hospital in England, where one currently remains.

‘Monitoring and follow-up of the cases and their close contacts are undertaken as part of normal practice, and the risk to the general public is very low.’ 

Richard Firth, a consultant in health protection at Public Health Wales, said ‘confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low’.

Monkeypox cases were identified in the UK for the first time in 2018 when three people caught the infection in separate instances in Cornwall, Blackpool and Liverpool. 

More recently, a person in south west England was diagnosed with the virus in December 2019 after visiting Nigeria. They were treated by specialists at St Thomas’ Hospital Trust in central London.

Other cases were confirmed in the US in 2003 after patients had close contact with some dogs that were infected by African rodents.

Around one in 10 people who become ill with monkeypox will die and most deaths from the virus occur in younger age groups, according to the WHO.

 

WHAT IS MONKEYPOX? 

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease which causes a blistering skin rash and feverish, flu-like symptoms.

The virus responsible for the disease is found mainly in the tropical areas of west and central Africa.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, with the first reported human case in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. Human cases were recorded for the first time in the US in 2003 and the UK in September 2018.

It is found in wild animals but humans can catch it through direct contact with animals, such as touching monkeys, squirrels rats or other mammals, or eating badly cooked meat. 

The virus can enter the body through broken skin or the eyes, nose or mouth.

It can pass between humans via droplets in the air, and by touching the skin of an infected individual, or touching objects contaminated by them. 

Symptoms usually appear within five and 21 days of infection. These include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue.

The most obvious symptom is a rash, which usually appears on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. This then forms skin lesions that scab and fall off.

Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment. Yet, the disease can often prove fatal.

There are no specific treatments or vaccines available for monkeypox infection, according to the World Health Organization.

 

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Covid UK: Indian variant now makes up 91% of all cases, Matt Hancock warns

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The Indian variant now makes up 91 per cent of all Covid cases in the UK, Matt Hancock has warned as official data revealed outbreaks are spiralling in nine out of ten areas in England — leaving ‘Freedom Day’ hanging in the balance.

Speaking at a select committee today where he was grilled by MPs on mistakes made in handling the pandemic, the Health Secretary said the ‘Delta’ variant now makes up more than nine in ten infections across Britain. 

He said: ‘The assessment that I saw from last night is that the “Delta” variant now comprises 91 per cent of new cases in the UK.’ 

Public Health England data released today showed cases are spiralling out of control across the vast majority of the country.

The infection rate was more than four times high in Halton, Cheshire — the area with the biggest proportional jump in the country — on June 8 as as it was on May 30, increasing from 8.5 to 43.27 per 100,000 people.

North East Lincolnshire saw the second highest jump, from 11.28 to 48.26 (a 328 per cent increase), followed by Northumberland, from 13.65 to 56.45 (314 per cent).

It comes after a symptom-tracking study today showed the number of Britons falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK, a symptom-tracking study warned today.

An estimated 11,908 people across the UK were catching the virus every day in the week ending June 5, according to the ZOE Covid study, up 109 per cent from 5,677 last week.

The study also showed Stirling in Scotland is the worst affected area in the country for Covid cases, with 838 symptomatic infections per 100,000 people. It was followed by six variant hotspots in the North West, including: Manchester (672), Bury (672), Rochdale (605) and Trafford (589). 

The troubling figures add to mounting fears about England’s planned final lockdown easing on June 21 ‘Freedom Day’, with the scientist behind the surveillance study admitting the situation ‘has rapidly changed’ in the face of the mutant ‘Delta’ strain.

It emerged today that Boris Johnson could implement a ‘mix and match’ unlocking, with face masks, work from home guidance and the rule of six indoors likely to still be mandatory after June 21 but the 30-guest cap on weddings dropped.

SAGE advisor Professor Susan Michie, a psychologist at University College London, today said social distancing and wearing face masks should be a part of British life forever.

No10’s top scientists fear the mutant Indian strain could be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the once dominant Kent version and SAGE modellers fear it will trigger a ‘substantial’ third wave — despite three-quarters of adults having been vaccinated.

Dr Jennie Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the UK is not going in the right direction in terms of Covid cases, leaving ‘Freedom Day’ on a ‘knife-edge’.

And Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London and lead author of the ZOE research, said the spiralling case numbers were caused by ‘increased social interaction and a newly dominant variant that is much more transmissible’. 

Slide me

Public Health England data released today showed cases are spiralling out of control across the vast majority of the country 

Graph shows: The cases per 100,000 in different age groups in the UK over time. The highest rates are now in 20- to 29-year-olds

The number of people falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week, a symptom-tracking study warned today amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK

Graph shows: The number of people testing positive for Covid and the positivity rate — the proportion of tests taken that are positive

Graph shows the number of people testing positive and positivity rates for lab-checked PCR tests and rapid LFD tests

Graph shows: The cases per 100,000 in different regions across England. The North West — home to the Indian variant hotspots of Bolton, Blackburn and Manchester — has the highest case rate in the UK

Graph shows: The rising prevalence of the Indian ‘Delta’ Covid variant (VOC-21APR-02) over time. It is now estimated to make up 91 per cent of cases, according to Matt Hancock

‘Mix and match’ unlocking for June 21? Boris could keep face masks but drop 30-guest wedding limit 

Boris Johnson could implement a ‘mix and match’ unlocking on Freedom Day, with face masks, work from home guidance and the rule of six indoors likely to still be mandatory after June 21 but the 30-guest cap on weddings dropped.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that ‘everybody can see cases and hospitalisations are going up’ and gave the strongest hint yet the much-anticipated milestone will be pushed back because of the rapid spread of the Indian Covid variant.

No10’s top scientists fear the mutant strain may be 60 per cent more transmissible than the once dominant Kent version and SAGE modellers fear it will trigger a ‘substantial’ third wave — despite three-quarters of adults having been vaccinated.

Despite mounting fears about plans to go ahead with the final unlocking and intensifying calls to delay it by up to four weeks to allow the NHS time to fully vaccinate millions more vulnerable over-50s, ministers are hopeful they can relax some curbs from later this month.

A senior Government source told the FT: ‘A mix-and-match approach is probably on the cards, given the limited number of levers left.’

Officials are working to find a solution that ‘pleases the PM’s instincts’, according to one minister, but the hybrid approach would be ‘very difficult’ to put in place. It could include lifting the current 30-person limit on weddings and receptions and allowing far greater crowds to attend ceremonies, bringing it in line with the Government’s policy on funerals.

Bar mitzvahs and christenings are also set to be boosted under the proposals and while socially distanced tables would not be required, guests may be urged to be ‘cautious’ about contact with other households, reports the Times.

Current guidelines suggest those attending bashes only participate in the first dance and wear masks at all times unless eating or drinking but under the new rules, people will be advised to assess the risk of hugging others themselves.

A government source said: ‘It’s been tough on the sector. If you’ve got stadiums full of people, why can’t weddings go ahead with more than 30 people?’

Mr Johnson softened his lockdown-ending stance yesterday in Cornwall ahead of the G7 summit, admitting there was now ‘arguments’ on both sides of the restrictions-easing debate. The PM repeated his pledge that No10 ‘will be driven by the data’.

But just hours before his comments, top SAGE adviser ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson dealt another blow to hopes of Freedom Day going ahead.

The Imperial College London epidemiologist warned it would take up to another three weeks for scientists to get enough data to accurately work out how dangerous the Indian variant is and how bad the third wave will be. He added there was a risk of a ‘substantial third wave but we cannot be definitive about the scale of that’.

The chance that scientific advisers, ministers and Mr Johnson — who committed to following the science and ‘not dates’ — will sign off on June 21 without the most accurate modelling is slim to none.

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Professor Spector said: ‘It’s clear that this is an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the UK and, due to the way vaccines have been rolled out, is largely affecting younger generations.

‘Vaccines are working and we want to encourage people to exercise caution, especially if they feel at all unwell, until they’ve been fully vaccinated. The race is on to fully vaccinate the whole population to save lives and return to normal life.’

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before. 

This was despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out. Data also showed the number of people taking rapid Covid tests has fallen to its lowest level for three months – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week. 

Dr Harries said that modelling data suggests there will be a further rise in Covid cases in the coming weeks.

However, she stressed it was still too early to make a decision on ending lockdown on June 21 and it will take another week before a clearer picture emerges.

It comes as the latest data from Public Health England (PHE) shows case rates in England have risen among almost all age groups, with the highest rate among 20 to 29-year-olds.

Speaking on a Royal Society of Medicine webinar Dr Harries said: ‘We are progressing, probably as a country, not quite in the right direction that we would all want to.’

She said the Government’s four-step road map out of lockdown, implemented in January, was created with five-week gaps to allow for the changes to take effect and to see whether it would lead to an increase in hospital admissions and deaths.

Dr Harries said: ‘The important thing here is, this really is a knife edge decision point, because the cases are rising and that’s becoming clearer.

‘Modelling does suggest that we will start to see a further rise, not necessarily immediately but in the coming weeks.’

She said that data suggests that those in the older age groups, aged 60 and above, are not getting ill with Covid because they are ‘doubly vaccinated’, meaning they have had both doses of the Covid jab.

She added that those appearing in hospital are either unvaccinated or those who have had a single dose of a Covid jab.

Dr Harries said: ‘Because of the rise in hospitalisations, and the risk that there may be a wider spread of the Delta (Indian) variant, it is really primarily important for saving lives that the older individuals who are more at risk, who have not had first and second vaccinations, maximally get vaccinated.’

She said that despite the UK’s ‘brilliant’ vaccination programme, Covid is ‘not going to go away’, because of a possible drop in vaccine effectiveness with the emergence of new coronavirus variants as well as a ‘large reservoir’ of individuals, such as children and young people, who can become infected and transmit the disease.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that ‘everybody can see cases and hospitalisations are going up’ and gave the strongest hint yet the much-anticipated milestone will be pushed back because of the rapid spread of the Indian Covid variant. 

Britain yesterday recorded another 7,540 positive coronavirus tests in the biggest week-on-week increase since February, with the mutant variant blamed for spiralling cases.

Despite fears infections will continue to spike given that restrictions have already been eased, other experts have called for calm. Anti-lockdown Tory MPs have demanded the PM sticks to his June 21 pledge.

NHS bosses say hospitals should be able to cope with surging cases because vaccines have meant fewer infected patients need medical care. Dr Richard Cree, an intensive care consultant in Middlesbrough, today claimed he was confident the third wave won’t mirror the crises seen last spring and in January. 

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie on the beach at the Carbis Bay, Cornwall today, ahead of Friday’s G7 summit.

Illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups, There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort compared to less than 50 in over-60s

There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus, compared to 9,991 unvaccinated people. But cases are increasing in both groups, with 89 per cent more symptomatic cases in people week-on-week even after being jabbed

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before

The rise in Test and Trace figures came despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out compared to the week before

Professor Tim Spector (left), an epidemiologist at King’s College London said the Covid situation in the UK ‘has rapidly changed’. Right: How a ‘mix and match’ unlocking might look on June 21

Meanwhile, one virus-tracking scientist even claimed the outbreak could plateau soon because of the combined effect of jabs and warmer summer weather.

In other developments today, Matt Hancock admitted the first lockdown was delayed despite initial warnings over 820,000 deaths because ministers feared Britons would not tolerate the restrictions for long.

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said that as early as January he was presented with a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of the huge potential toll, based on Spanish Flu. But imposing the draconian first national restrictions did not happen until March 23, with Mr Hancock pointing to expert advice that the public would only ‘put up with it’ for a limited time and concerns about the ‘immediate costs’.

Social distancing and face masks should stay FOREVER says Communist SAGE committee member Professor Susan Michie 

Social distancing and wearing face masks should stay forever, a Communist-supporting SAGE scientist has claimed.

Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, said she thinks the draconian restrictions should become part of people’s every day routine.

In a bizarre comparison, she said Britons never used to wear seat belts in cars or ‘pick up dog poo in the park’ but learned to over time.

It comes as the country waits with bated breath to see if Boris Johnson will stick to his roadmap and launch ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21.

The PM could implement a ‘mix and match’ unlocking, with face masks, work from home guidance and the rule of six indoors likely to still be mandatory.

But in a boost for young couples there were reports the 30-guest cap on weddings may be shelved.

Professor Michie told Channel 5 News: ‘Vaccines are a really important part of the pandemic control but it’s only one part.

‘Test, trace and isolate system, border controls are really essential. And there third thing is people’s behaviour.

‘That is the behaviour of social distancing, of when you’re indoors making sure there’s good ventilation and hand and surface hygiene.

‘We’ll need to keep these going in the long term and that will probably be good not only for Covid but to reduce other diseases at a time when the NHS is…’

She was cut off by presenter Claudia-Liza Armah who asked her: ‘When you say the long term, what do you mean by that – how long?’

Professor Michie replied: ‘I think forever, to some extent.’ Both the host and the professor laugh at the bizarre suggestion.

 

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In other developments today: 

  • Matt Hancock gave a damning assessment of the expert views on asymptomatic transmission, saying the WHO told him at the end of January that claims coming out of China were ‘likely a mistranslation’; 
  • NHS data revealed more than 5million people in England are now waiting for hospital treatment — the highest number since records began in 2007; 
  • Airline officials urged Rishi Sunak was urged to launch a new bailout package for the beleaguered aviation industry amid growing fears of a second ‘lost summer’; 
  • The Care Provider Alliance claimed Matt Hancock was repeatedly warned over the risk of not testing people discharged from hospitals into care homes at the start of the pandemic.

The ZOE Covid Study data suggests cases are higher and increasing faster in the unvaccinated population in the UK.

There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus every day, compared to just shy of 10,000 unvaccinated people.

Cases are increasing in both groups, jumping by 89 per cent among vaccinated people. But the rate of growth was quicker among those not yet jabbed (114 per cent).

Scotland and the North West were the worst affected regions in the UK.

An estimated 3,465 people are now coming down with Covid every day in the North West — in which swathes of the region have been given guidance to combat the Indian variant in hotspots — and 2,446 in Scotland.

But illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups.

There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort, compared to fewer than 50 in over-60s.

Professor Spector said: ‘The Covid situation in the UK has rapidly changed from one of the best performing nations to a nation again struggling with rising cases. 

‘Official confirmed cases are now around 7,500, which is the highest daily figure since late February. However, when you dig into the data, it’s clear that this is an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the UK and, due to the way vaccines have been rolled out, is largely affecting younger generations.

‘The rapid rise is likely down to two compounding factors; increased social interaction and a newly dominant variant that is much more transmissible.

‘It’s no surprise that people are becoming fatigued with social distancing after a long 15 months of restrictions, which will only encourage the spread. 

‘The good news is that fully vaccinated people have much greater protection. Vaccines are working and we want to encourage people to exercise caution, especially if they feel at all unwell, until they’ve been fully vaccinated. 

‘The race is on to fully vaccinate the whole population to save lives and return to normal life.’ 

Separate Test and Trace figures today showed 25,091 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to June 2.

It is the highest number of people testing positive since the week to March 31.

Data also showed the number of people taking rapid Covid tests has fallen to its lowest level for three months – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week.

Just under 3.5million lateral flow device (LFD) tests were conducted in England in the week to June 2, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is down from 4.8million in the previous week, and is the lowest total since the week to March 3, when just under 2.8million tests were carried out.

The drop in the latest week coincided with the summer half-term holiday in schools, the Department of Health said.

LFD tests are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less without the need for processing in a laboratory.

 

What are the top 25 Covid ‘hotspots’ according to the ZOE Symptom Study?

1. Stirling

2. Bury 

3. Manchester

4. Rochdale

5. Trafford

6. Bolton 

7. Kirklees 

8. Perth and Kinross 

9. Sunderland

10. Luton

11. South Ayrshire

12. East Lancashire

13. Edinburgh

14. Southwark

15. St Helens

16. Wigan

17. Oldham

18. Renfrewshire

19. West Lothian

20. East Dunbartonshire

21. Aberdeenshire

22. Wrexham

22. Leeds

24. Derby

25. Cheshire

838 cases per 100,000

672 

672 

605

589

553

539

501 

499 

473

453

395

390

379

379

349

345

336

309

297

295

290

290

288

273 

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Since April 9, everyone in England has been eligible for rapid Covid-19 tests twice a week.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Cornwall yesterday, Boris Johnson gave the clearest hint yet that lockdown easing on June 21 would not go ahead because of the rapid spread of the Indian variant.

Me Johnson said: ‘What everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some places hospitalisations are going up. What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. 

‘So that is what we will be looking at and there are arguments being made one way or another. But we will be driven by the data, we will be looking at that and setting it out on Monday.’ 

Just hours before the Prime Minister spoke, top SAGE adviser ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson suggested it would take at least another three weeks for scientists to know how much more transmissible the Indian variant is, suggesting hopes of ending lockdown in a fortnight are unlikely. 

Professor Ferguson, who has guided the Government through the pandemic, said scientists still don’t know how much faster the variant spreads, how much more deadly it is nor how big the third wave will be.

The chance that scientific advisers, ministers and Boris Johnson — who committed to ‘data not dates’ — will sign off on June 21 without this information is slim to none. An extra three weeks to collect the figures plus the PM’s one-week notice for a change in restrictions suggests in the best case scenario it will be early July before Step Four of the roadmap is taken.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘It’s well within the possibility that we could see another, third, wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations, as the second wave. At least deaths, I think, would certainly be lower. It’s hard to judge.’

The Imperial College London epidemiologist said researchers need to see how many people are admitted to hospital and die as a result of the current surge in infections. 

They believe it is around 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant, more likely to put people in hospital and that vaccines work less well against it. 

There have now been more than 19,000 new cases in just three days and Professor Ferguson suggested the outbreak’s doubling time could be less than a week, warning of ‘quite fast doubling, comparable with what we saw before Christmas.’

The prolific SAGE member’s warning is the closest thing to confirmation that Boris Johnson will delay the ending of social distancing laws planned for June 21. His ministers today took a ‘wait and see’ approach to questions about the roadmap and told people to hold off making summer plans.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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