New Covid warning as Omicron subvariants set to fuel sharp rise in hospitalisations | The Sun
Hospital cases with Covid are expected to peak higher than the Omicron waves in early 2022, a health chief fears.
As the virus has made a return, Dame Jenny Harries urged people to “go about their normal lives” but in a “precautionary way”.
The UK Health Security Agency chief executive told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “It doesn’t look as though that wave has finished yet, so we would anticipate that hospital cases will rise.
“And it’s possible, quite likely, that they will actually peak over the previous BA.2 wave.
“But I think the overall impact, we won’t know. It’s easy to say in retrospect, it’s not so easy to model forward.”
In the first Omicron wave, caused by the BA.1 strain, starting December 2021, hospital admissions reached up to 2,000 per day.
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After a dip in case load thanks to booster jabs, then came the BA.2 wave in spring, which led to highs of 2,300 a day in April.
Currently, 1,300 people are admitted each day in the UK.
The most people admitted to hospital with Covid on any one day was almost 4,000 in January 2021, when the Alpha (Kent) variant took hold.
Dame Harries said the majority of cases in the UK now are BA.4 and BA.5.
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The latter is “really pushing and driving this current wave”, she said.
The latest figures showed Covid-19 infections in the UK had jumped by more than half a million in a week (32 per cent).
A total of 2.3 million people across the UK tested positive last week compared with 1.7 million a week earlier, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It is the highest estimate for total infections since late April, but is still some way below the record of 4.9 million at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.
The ONS estimates one in every 30 Brits is now infected.
The latest data shows we cannot afford to be complacent with currently small but concerning increases over the past week in the number of patients both being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and those needing a ventilator.
Dame Harries added that people should “go about their normal lives but in that precautionary way”, highlighting handwashing, mask-wearing and keeping distance where possible.
She said she has not been routinely wearing a face mask, but carries one to wear on the Tube and with anyone anxious about Covid.
Asked if it matters that a lot of people are getting infected with Covid, she said it “matters on a national basis”.
“Whilst we have an armament now of vaccines and antiviral treatments, we do have, as you’ve just highlighted, a rise in hospital admissions and occupancy,” she said.
“And that means it’s not just Covid that we’re concerned about, but it’s actually our ability to treat other illnesses as well.”
Dame Harries appealed to the “nearly 20 per cent of the 75-plus year-old group” who have not had their spring booster to come forward.
Meanwhile, NHS Providers said hospital trust leaders “know they are in for a bumpy ride over the coming months”.
The interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said there is no room for complacency.
“Trust leaders know they are in for a bumpy ride over the coming months as they tackle new and unpredictable variants of Covid-19 alongside grappling with seasonal flu pressures which may hit us earlier than usual this year,” she said.
“The policy of living with Covid does not mean Covid has gone away.
“The latest data shows we cannot afford to be complacent with currently small but concerning increases over the past week in the number of patients both being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and those needing a ventilator.
“Warnings from Dr Jenny Harries today that community infection rates and hospital admissions are expected to rise further is concerning.
“Waves of Covid-19 and flu will put additional pressure on stretched NHS staff and services and their efforts to tackle waiting lists, deliver efficiencies and transform the NHS, as well as on our hard-pressed colleagues in social care.”
Experts have warned that people who have previously been infected with Omicron are not protected against BA.4 and BA.5.
A study by Imperial College Lodon revealed that these variants are “more stealthy and fly under the radar” of immunity, even in those triple-jabbed.
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However, it was stressed that vaccines are still protective against severe disease and death.
And Omicron has so far caused a milder illness, especially in the fully jabbed.
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