Boris Johnson announced today that he will turn on the army to step up the UK's coronavirus vaccination campaign, claiming the NHS can deliver 200,000 shocks a day by next Friday as part of ambitious plans to end the lockdown.
With the introduction of vaccines as the only light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister today reassured the public that enough doses are available to immunize all of the highest priority groups by mid-February. He also promised to offer a sting to every resident of a nursing home by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system designed to speed the process.
Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, praised Britain for its "strong start" but both he and the Prime Minister admitted that there will be "trouble" and "bumps in the road" if they try to hit millions of people immunize per week. The UK aims to vaccinate 13 million people by mid-February, which could take up to 3 million a week.
And for people who get sick before they can get a vaccine, Mr Johnson announced that two routine arthritis drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – will be used to treat critically ill patients after scientists found today that they reduce the risk of death can lower up to a quarter.
Mr Johnson's mammoth jab pledge – which critics fear he can't deliver because it's too ambitious – came after Britain recorded 1,162 Covid deaths on the pandemic's second worst day. Health Department data shows that only April 21 had a worse death toll than today, when 1,224 victims were reported.
Experts fear the daily number of Covid deaths could continue to rise due to the rising number of infections in the community. But in a glimmer of hope, cases down from last week as health bosses recorded 52,618 infections – a 6 percent decrease from the same period last year.
At today's Downing Street press conference, Brigadier Phil Prosser, the Army officer and Iraq veteran responsible for speeding up Britain's sluggish vaccination program, insisted that the military use "battlefield techniques" to advance the roll-out, and added: "My team are used to creating complexity and building supply chains quickly under the most difficult and challenging conditions."
Defense Department chiefs have been directed to work out the plans to meet the prime minister's lofty goal of vaccinating all over 70s, residents and nursing home workers, NHS frontline workers and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages to avoid the endless End cycle of closures by mid-February.
Considered the largest vaccination campaign in British history, the NHS operation will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with nearly 1,500 reserve troops on standby. Up to seven mass vaccination centers are to be opened in England to support the roll-out. These will be set up in sports stadiums and in the London ExCeL center.
Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) is set to unveil a new Army-run plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus bursts tonight as Number 10 seeks to speed up the UK's sluggish vaccination campaign
Two elderly Britons are pictured outside Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, which opens next week as Covid's mass vaccination center
Another day of the coronavirus mayhem:
- Matt Hancock insisted that vaccines will mean this will be the final national lockdown as the health secretary tried to use an optimistic tone and set four criteria for lifting restrictions.
- Drivers were turned away from beauty spots in the Derbyshire countryside while police barbecued parents with a stroller in Birmingham city center as armed forces across the country launched an extreme crackdown on Covid.
- Older Britons are opposed to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine because they prefer to wait for the English one and not show up for appointments when ministers are trying to speed up the rush to roll out.
- Nursing home bosses said it would be a "serious mistake" to use their empty beds as overflow for overcrowded hospitals as the number of people admitted with Covid-19 soars.
- The number of NHS workers sick or self-isolating from coronavirus has nearly quadrupled since September. Almost every tenth employee who is now sick has leaked.
Today's numbers mark the tenth day in a row. The UK has recorded more than 50,000 new infections as the virus continues to spread across the country.
It takes at least two weeks for someone infected with the virus to develop symptoms bad enough to be hospitalized and sadly eventually die of the disease, meaning the deaths are likely at a later date will increase.
People in their twenties now have the highest rate of coronavirus infection in England, with 0.8 percent of the infected population.
Public Health England figures show that young adults – between the ages of 20 and 39 and to a lesser extent people in their forties – are the most affected groups, but the number of cases is increasing in every age group.
For the week ending January 3, there were 843 positive tests per 100,000 people in 20–29 year olds, compared to 813 per 100,000 in people in their 30s.
The numbers rose 40 percent and 31 percent, respectively, with the 20s age group overtaking the 30s as the one with the highest rate.
The rate for people in their forties was 738 per 100,000, the third worst and a quarter a week.
Some of the lowest infection rates were in children, from 194 in children under five to 435 in teenagers, but they still rose despite the school holidays.
The largest increase was seen in people in their 60s, where the positive test rate rose 47 percent from 308 per 100,000 people to 454.
Nursing homes say it would be a "serious mistake" to use their empty beds as an overflow for packed hospitals as the number of people admitted with Covid-19 soars.
The NHS plans to command replacement care beds across the country to ease pressure on hospitals as their wards fill with coronavirus patients.
There are currently more than 30,000 people hospitalized with Covid across the UK. The number is expected to rise after more than 300,000 people tested positive in the last week of December.
But the government is blocking the move to send patients to nursing homes because it does not want to pay and fears that patients could transfer Covid to the extremely vulnerable residents of the houses, reports the Health Service Journal.
The National Care Forum warned that nursing homes are under their own “phenomenal” pressures and also cannot deal with NHS patients. It has been argued that calls to protect the NHS cannot ignore the "massive potential impact" on nursing homes.
The caution is a worrying relapse into the first wave when hospitals were allowed to discharge patients to nursing homes without testing them for Covid.
These patients, the bosses warned, sowed deadly coronavirus outbreaks in homes, which contributed to the sector's devastating 19,157 death toll in 2020.
The Ministry of Health wrote to nursing homes in October asking them to make space to accommodate non-resident patients discharged from hospitals.
It wanted to set up 500 of these designated areas, separated from the main house and manned by various workers, in case hospitals were overloaded by a second wave of coronavirus.
The ministers wanted to make sure that every local authority in England had at least one of these overflow units available.
But now, with hospitals facing rapidly increasing patient admissions and with the coronavirus rampant again in the UK, the government is reportedly hesitant to put the plans into action.
The Health Service Journal reported that the Treasury Department is holding back the idea because it won't pay the bill – most nursing homes are run by private companies.
Matt Hancock today denied ministers dragged their feet over the imposition of a national lockdown – saying that Christmas tarnished the dates
It is because Matt Hancock insisted today that vaccines will mean this will be the final national lockdown, as he denied ministers dragged their feet over the imposition – claiming Christmas tarnished the dates.
The health minister tried to use an optimistic tone when wondering about the delay in the introduction of the brutal curbs to control the mutant Covid strain as he presented evidence to MPs this afternoon.
Health Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt asked Mr Hancock to announce late last week that the number of hospitalized patients was above the first wave, while SAGE had indicated that the R number would not stay below one with schools open.
However, the cabinet minister insisted that the real picture did not become visible until the weekend and that the government "acted quickly" by announcing the measures on Monday.
He blamed a "decrease" in the number of people tested over Christmas, saying this meant the extent of the problem was "less clear".
FIVE HOSPITALS HAVE NO INTENSIVE CARE AREA IN THE LAST WEEK
Five intensive care units in England had no space for new patients last week, official figures show.
NHS England surveillance figures, which underlie the extent of winter pressures, show occupancy is 79.6 percent – but only because health chiefs have tried to find an additional 1,000 beds.
In the week ending January 3, an average of 3,716 out of 4,672 intensive care beds were occupied in the English NHS hospitals.
For comparison: In the same week last year, the total occupancy was 83.3 percent – when an average of only 3,652 beds were available.
The five NHS hospitals that had intensive care units 100 percent full last week were:
- North Middlesex University Hospital Trust
- Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust
- Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust
- Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust
- Royal Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust, Cambridge
Another 34 trusts, mostly scattered in London and the south-east, which were hit hardest by the coronavirus in the second wave, were at least 90 percent occupied. NHS England counts 133 trusts every week.
But Mr. Hancock was also confident about the prospect of life returning to normal. When asked if this was the final vaccine ban, he said, "Yes I do."
Boris Johnson dramatically revealed the lockdown on England in a TV statement to the nation on Monday evening.
He said he was faced with blatant numbers by medical professionals and scientists who showed the NHS was at risk of being overwhelmed within weeks if it didn't act.
They contained news that more than 80 people had delivered positive samples in a single day just after Christmas, and had also increased during hospital stays and weekly cases.
At the hearing this afternoon, Mr. Hunt said the government knew the number of hospital patients was above the first wave last week, and SAGE had said the R-rate would not drop below one with schools open.
"Cases have increased 57 percent in just a week," he said. "Did we have to wait until Monday or could we not have made this decision on Thursday or Friday of the previous week?"
Mr. Hancock replied, “We are acting quickly. When we saw a very sharp rise in rates that weekend, we traded on Monday.
'The week before that, the case data included the decrease in the number of people who came up for testing over Christmas, so the data was less clear-cut.
& # 39; When the data came in after Christmas it became extremely clear. None of these decisions are easy. The health consequences of the decision are extremely clear … There is a heavy balance in both parts of the ledger. & # 39;
Mr Hancock said it was "impossible" to give a percentage of the risk of congestion in the NHS in the next two weeks, amid fears that services in London were in danger of being flooded.
He said to the MPs: "It is impossible to put a number on it and I am not just using it as an excuse."
He said that the pressure on the NHS "increases as the services the people need increase", noting that routine election procedures in the second spike are canceled.
Elsewhere during the meetings, Mr Hancock said he was "as confident as possible" that deaths will fall after 13 million of the most vulnerable people received vaccination doses – which is expected to occur in mid-February.
However, he warned that there would be a delay of possibly weeks and the number of hospital patients could decline at a much slower rate.
Mr Hancock said the priority groups allotted for vaccines by mid-February accounted for around 85 percent of deaths.
He told MPs, "I'm as confident as you can, based on all of the clinical advice I've seen and all of my own data, that the death toll in this country will go down – for a number of times." Cases – once the vaccine has been introduced for the vulnerable groups. & # 39;
Mr. Hancock continued, “I would also expect a decline in hospital stays, but ironically not as fast as the number of deaths in the first place.
"The reason is that people who are a little younger spend longer in hospital, often because they survive when someone who is very old and frail may not survive that long."
The Minister of Health also stressed that the coronavirus is likely to become a seasonal problem like the flu, and is likely to mutate in a similar way, requiring new vaccines every year.
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