Covid-19: Dr Hilary calls for return of masks as cases rise
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Figures have revealed that Covid hospitalisations are on the rise in England, sparking concerns that the virus could return in the run up to Christmas. Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that 724 patients were admitted to hospital with the virus last Monday, in the latest available data. It is an alarming 13 percent rise from the 639 recorded a week earlier. The number of admissions also marked the highest daily total since October 27.
Now, some experts, such as Professor Kit Yates, a mathematician at the University of Bath and member of Independent Sage, have suggested face coverings should be rolled out as the festive season approaches.
Covid levels had been falling since mid-October and still remain relatively low. But last week, cases were up slightly in England for a second week in a row. UKHSA figures also indicate that virus-infected patients in hospital beds are also increasing.
A total of 5,501 people had the virus on Wednesday, an 11 percent increase from the 4,964 recorded the previous week. These figures refer to all patients who have the virus, but do not differentiate between those who were admitted for a separate reason and tested positive on arrival, or once admitted onto a hospital ward.
But while cases in Northern Ireland have also been creeping up, they are not doing the same in Scotland and Wales, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In the last Covid wave, the total number of cases peaked at just over two million in mid-October. However, this number was far lower than spikes experienced earlier in the year, when infections reached nearly four million in July and just under five million in back in March.
Despite this, the NHS is urging people take up a jab before the Christmas holidays if they are eligible to do so. NHS England director of vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell, told the BBC: “If you are yet to have your Covid booster or flu jab, please book in as soon as possible and take up the opportunities on offer around the country this weekend to ensure you have maximum protection over Christmas.”
NHS England has also said that some pop-up vaccination sites will be set up at various community health centres, food banks and places of worship. Pregnant women are eligible for a Covid seasonal booster, along with carers and the over 50.
Residents in care homes will have been offered the booster, along with those aged five or over in a clinical risk group.
Michelle Bowen, from the ONS, said: “Infections have continued to increase across England, increased in Northern Ireland for the first time in a month and the trend in all other UK countries is now uncertain.
“Across English regions and ages, it is a mixed picture of uncertainty and increases in infection rates, and we will continue to monitor the data carefully over the winter months.”
The NHS is currently advising people to try to stay at home and avoid contact with others if they have tested positive for Covid or are experiencing any symptoms. The health service has also stressed the significance of avoiding people at higher risk of infection, like those with weakened immune systems, even if they have received their jabs.
Tim Spector, head of the Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College London, has previously said that we could see a new dominant Covid variant emerging early next year which could beat much of the immunity that people have developed against the current dominant variant, BA.5.
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He told iNews: “That’s the prediction, due to Christmas mixing and probably getting a new variant that will attack people who have been infected before. They haven’t fought it out amongst themselves yet to know who is the winner.”
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, has said that we were always going to see more infections as we head into the festive season. He added: “It was inevitable that levels of infection would rise as we head into the winter.
“This is due to a combination of factors – a swarm of new variants, waning immunity from previous infections and vaccinations and changes in behaviour, particularly close mixing in poorly ventilated spaces.”
However, modeling completed in October by University College London suggested that the next winter peak won’t come until after Christmas, although it warned that a January wave will be bigger than previous ones.
Professor Karl Friston, a neuroscientist who led the modelling, told Sky News that the predictions were based on “everything that has happened so far”. He said: “You can see a pattern over the past two years of a peak in late October or early November – and then a large one after Christmas.”
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