Fireman Dan Joslin, wearing a face shield, helps leave a Covid-19 patient vulnerable while working with critical care workers in the intensive care unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, southern England.

ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – British medical professionals have urged the UK government to reintroduce some Covid restrictions due to the increased infection rate and hospital admissions in the country.

Health leaders warned late Tuesday that the UK could run the risk of “falling into a winter crisis” if the government fails to implement its “Plan B” “likely to come under unsustainable pressure”.

Officials from the NHS Confederation, representing organizations across the UK health sector, called on the government to “Immediately introduce measures such as mandatory face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces to preserve people’s health and prevent the NHS from overwhelming this winter.” . “

They warned the National Health Service “is seeing worrying increases in coronavirus cases in its hospitals and community at a time when it is preparing for a busy winter time, its employees are on the verge of burnout, and many of him are about to recover.” Services disrupted by the pandemic. “

The UK is currently seeing between 40,000 and 50,000 new Covid cases every day, and the number of hospitalizations and deaths is steadily increasing, albeit at a much slower pace than earlier in the pandemic thanks to Covid vaccines, which greatly reduce the risk of serious infection. Hospitalization and death.

On Tuesday, the UK reported 43,738 new Covid cases, down from Monday when 49,156 new cases were recorded, the highest daily number in three months.

Situation “only gets worse”

Covid restrictions in England were lifted on July 19 when pubs, restaurants and nightclubs reopened. Even outside of public transport, wearing masks has largely become a personal decision.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government previously insisted that Covid restrictions and possible lockdowns would only return as a last resort and that the country “needs to learn to live with the virus”.

On Wednesday, UK Economy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng reiterated this position, saying, “I absolutely think it would be completely wrong for us to go into lockdown again,” he told Times Radio.

He noted that hospital admissions and death rates were much lower than in previous pandemic climaxes, adding that “we are learning, I believe, to live with the virus”.

The NHS Confederation said Tuesday on the additional measures the UK might now adopt, “clear notifications to the public that the risk has increased, the introduction of certificates for people’s Covid vaccine status and the legal obligation to do so in certain environments To wear face covering. in addition to considering asking people to work from home when they can. “

Many of these measures, particularly with regard to the wearing of masks and Covid certification, “are already common in parts of Europe where the prevalence of the disease is lower,” the NHS association noted.

In his speech on Wednesday morning, Confederation chairman Matthew Taylor warned that the NHS, a popular institution in the UK and even more so during the pandemic, was “on the verge” of increasing the number of Covid patients being watched in hospitals.

“I speak to health officials every day, and I have literally not spoken to a leader who does not say that their ministry is now under a lot of pressure. This is the middle of October. Things are only getting worse, ”he told BBC radio.

“Health care is on the fringes … if you go much further, we won’t be able to provide the service that people need to be.”

New mutation

A new mutation of the Delta variant, which British experts are closely monitoring, may make things more difficult.

Last Friday, the UK Health and Safety Authority released a report stating that “a delta subline newly designated AY.4.2 is expanding in England” and that it is monitoring the subtype.

The highly contagious Delta variant is the world’s dominant version of the coronavirus, having usurped the previous “alpha” variant of the virus, which was first discovered in the UK

This new descendant of the Delta Covid variant, AY.4.2, has been identified in a growing number of UK Covid cases, with some suggesting that this could be another possible factor in rising case numbers, although it is too early to be to say for sure.

“This subline is currently increasing in frequency. It includes the spike mutations A222V and Y145H. In the week beginning September 27, 2021 (the last week with full sequencing data), this subline accounted for approximately 6% of all generated sequences on an increasing trajectory That estimate may be inaccurate … Another assessment is ongoing, “noted the UK Health Authority.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told Sky News on Tuesday that “[AY.4.2] we are watching very closely “and there is currently no evidence that this variant is more easily spread. I do not hesitate to take action if necessary,” he said.

Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb also tweeted about the subtype over the weekend.

“The UK reported its largest one-day increase in Covid cases in 3 months, just as the new Delta variant AY.4 with the S: Y145H mutation in the spike reached 8% of the sequenced cases in the UK,” said Gottlieb. “We need urgent research to find out if this delta plus is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion?”

Imperial College London professor of immunology Danny Altmann told CNBC on Monday that the subtype “needs to be monitored and carefully controlled as much as possible.”

“Since Delta has been the dominant mutant in several regions for about six months and has not been displaced by other variants, there was hope that Delta might be represented [the] Maximum performance of the mutation that the virus can achieve. AY.4 could cast doubt on this claim, “he warned.

Why is the UK in this mess?

Experts say there are a myriad of reasons behind the UK’s high Covid numbers – from half-hearted mask adoption (even when masks are required, like on public transport, the rule is rarely enforced) to large indoor gatherings that spread the virus.

The UK’s reluctance to vaccinate younger adolescents, which other countries in Europe and the US did much earlier, and the return to schools in September were also cited as reasons for the surge in cases. Although the infection boom among 0-18 year olds is now ebbing as infections increase in their parents’ generation, the data shows.

Ironically, the early introduction of vaccination in the UK – which began in December 2020 and was one of the first in the world – is also now seen as a contributor to its high case rate, as we know – from an increasing amount of data – that immunity in vaccinated people wanes after around six months. To date, 78.9% of the UK population over 12 is fully vaccinated, official data shows.

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