14.1 C
New York
HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessCovid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with...

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

Daily Covid cases in Britain rocketed to another record high today as the Omicron Covid variant engulfs the country, with more than 88,000 people diagnosed in the last 24 hours.

Today’s count marks a 74 per cent rise in a week and is 12 per cent higher than the toll yesterday, which eclipsed the previous record of 68,000 during the second wave in January.

Chris Whitty has warned that ‘records will be broken a lot’ by the ultra-infectious Omicron variant, believed to be doubling nationally every two days and spreading faster than testing can keep up. 

A quarter of today’s 88,376 cases were in London which has rapidly become the country’s variant epicentre, with the variant is doubling every day-and-a-half and cases rising in all ages except young children.  

Omicron made up 70 per cent of cases in the capital on December 13, according to data published by the UK Health Security Agency today, and 40 per cent nationally.

It came as Britain’s booster programme saw a record 745,183 third doses administered on Wednesday, with the country edging closer towards hitting No10’s ambitious target of a million boosters per day. It means 25million Britons are triple-vaccinated, the equivalent of about a third of the population.

Professor Whitty told MPs on the Health and Social Care Select Committee that Omicron is spreading so quickly it could send daily hospital admissions above the previous high of 4,500. 

‘It is possible, because this is going to be very concentrated over a short period of time, even if it’s milder, you could end up with a higher number than that going into hospital on a single day,’ he said. 

But the chief medical officer admitted there were still several key questions about Omicron such as how severe it is and how well vaccines protect against severe disease.

Daily Covid deaths — which are a lagging indicator — fell today with 146 fatalities down by around 1 per cent on last Thursday. Latest hospital data shows there were 849 admissions on December 12, up 4 per cent in a week.

Boris Johnson insisted that the Government does not want to ‘lock stuff down’, with Britons instead urged to ‘prioritise’ social events, get a booster and do a lateral flow test before meeting people.

But fears about the variant are already creating a de facto lockdown in London, where tens of thousands of workers stayed at home today to avoid isolating over Christmas.   

Pubs and restaurants have also started closing early for Christmas after being hit by a ‘double whammy’ of staff absences and plummeting consumer confidence as the return to working from home emptied city centres around the country.

In another day of coronavirus chaos: 

  • Chris Whitty warned that Britons can expect another 18 months of potential Covid misery until a vaccine that protects against all variants is developed and rolled out;
  • A record 745,183 booster vaccines were rolled out across Britain on Wednesday, with 25million Britons, or 37 per cent of the population, now triple-jabbed; 
  • The Omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in the airways but 10 times slower in the lungs, according to a study that may explain why it is so infectious but causes milder illness;
  • Up to 2million people could be stuck in self-isolation on Christmas day if Omicron infections continue to increase as quickly as some scientists expect, MailOnline analysis of official figures suggests;
  • Boris Johnson today denied imposing a ‘lockdown by stealth’ as Professor Chris Whitty faced a Tory backlash after telling the nation to restrict socialising in the run up to Christmas.

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

The UK Health Security Agency's estimated doubling times for Omicron in every region of England. The variant is believed to be doubling every one-and-a-half days in London

The UK Health Security Agency’s estimated doubling times for Omicron in every region of England. The variant is believed to be doubling every one-and-a-half days in London

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

Boris Johnson (pictured today) insisted that the Government does not want to 'lock stuff down', with Britons instead urged to 'prioritise' social events, get a booster and do a lateral flow test before meeting people

Boris Johnson (pictured today) insisted that the Government does not want to ‘lock stuff down’, with Britons instead urged to ‘prioritise’ social events, get a booster and do a lateral flow test before meeting people

LONDON -- Westminster Bridge looks very quiet during the morning rush hour in London today as Britons stay at home

LONDON — Westminster Bridge looks very quiet during the morning rush hour in London today as Britons stay at home

A quiet Farringdon station during rush hour in Central London this morning as people get off an Underground train

A quiet Farringdon station during rush hour in Central London this morning as people get off an Underground train

The above map shows the proportion of Covid cases being triggered by Omicron across England's regions. It is now dominant in London, where 60 per cent of cases are now thought to be triggered by the variant

The above map shows the proportion of Covid cases being triggered by Omicron across England’s regions. It is now dominant in London, where 60 per cent of cases are now thought to be triggered by the variant 

This shows the cumulative number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK, broken down by nations

This shows the cumulative number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK, broken down by nations

The surge in Covid cases is piling pressure on a health service struggling with staff sickness, Professor Whitty told MPs today.

Omicron is so transmissible that even if it proves to be milder than other variants, it could still cause a surge in hospital admissions, he explained. The record for the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is 4,583 set in January.

‘It is possible, because this is going to be very concentrated over a short period of time, even if it’s milder, you could end up with a higher number than that going into hospital on a single day,’ he said.

Whitty admits daily hospital admission could surpass 4,500 peaks but could fall much more sharply than previous waves and patients could be discharged sooner

Daily hospital admissions during the Omicron wave could soar above the previous high of 4,500, England’s chief medical officer warned today. 

Professor Chris Whitty told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee it is possible the 4,583 Covid admissions recorded on January 12 could be surpassed in the coming weeks as the steep increase in cases concentrates hospitalisations over a shorter period.

However, higher protection among the population due to the vaccine programme could result in shorter stays and fewer patients going to ICU, he said.

This means that even though daily hospitalisation numbers may hit record highs, the total number of patients in hospital at one time — which peaked at 39,254 on January 18 — won’t necessarily be surpassed. 

Professor Whitty said: ‘So I think what we shouldn’t assume is that if we got the same number going in the front door, that necessarily translates into the same numbers in hospital in an ICU at some point in the new year.’ 

But he warned that high hospitalisation numbers in the coming weeks will come at a time when record numbers of NHS staff are expected to be off work unwell, isolating or caring for others.

Professor Whitty said: ‘You’re going to have both a reduction in supply and an increase in demand in the health service over a very short time period. 

‘And that really is the reason why we’re all taking this extremely seriously.’ 

In a worst-case scenario, 22 per cent of over-65s who get infected would be hospitalised with the virus — the same proportion seen during the Alpha wave last winter, before the vaccines were rolled out, Professor Whitty said.

And at the ‘top end of expectations’ would be a 6 per cent case to hospital ratio, he said. 

‘But it is possible that with a boost we are better off with Omicron than we are with two vaccines with Delta for severe disease,’ Professor Whitty said.

And he expects that the extraordinary rise in infections will lead to a steep fall that ‘may come down faster than previous peaks’. 

He said: ‘I think what we will see with this is — and I think we’re seeing it in South Africa — is that the upswing will be very incredibly fast even if people are taking more cautious action. 

Professor Whitty added: ‘It’ll probably therefore peak really quite fast. 

‘My anticipation is it may then come down faster than previous peaks but I wouldn’t want to say that for sure.’ 

Susan Hopkins, head of the UK Health Security Agency, warned 250 Britons would need to be hospitalised with Omicron for scientists to estimate how severe the strain is and how effective vaccines are against it.

There are 15 people hospitalised with the variant, but Professor Whitty warned the true figure will be ‘much bigger’, as not all positive tests among patients have been sequenced to determine which variant they are infected with.  

However, he said vaccinations could cut the numbers admitted to intensive care and shorten the time spent in hospital. On Thursday there were 849 admissions.

Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, said there were 15 proven cases of Omicron in hospitals, but that the number was likely to be much higher.

Although new cases were at a record high according to official data, Britain did not have mass testing capacity in March 2020 when the pandemic first hit the country, and so the scale of infections at that point is unknown.

A senior emergency doctor said hospitals, particularly in London, were struggling to maintain staffing levels due to the number who are having to isolate with COVID-19.

‘Even if we are not seeing a big rise in hospitalisations yet, we are already seeing the effect on not having the staff to run shifts properly and safely,’ Katherine Henderson, an emergency consultant in London and president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told BBC Radio.

‘So we are worried about patient harm coming about because we just don’t have the staff.’

The education minister also warned of problems with staff shortages, and said his department would work with ex teachers who wanted to return to the profession to help.

Britain is betting that vaccine boosters will prevent serious illness from Omicron.

The government has also advised people to work from home, mandated mask wearing in public places and has introduced COVID-19 passes to enter some venues and events in England, but has stopped short of previous lockdown measures.

‘If it looked as if the vaccines were less effective than we were expecting, that for example would be a material change to how ministers viewed the risks going forward,’ Whitty said. 

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has denied imposing a ‘lockdown by stealth’ amid allegations that medical advisers are ‘running the show’ on Covid policy.

Mr Johnson urged people to be ‘cautious’ about their activities during the festive period, but said the Government does not ‘want to make your choices for you about your social life’.

He made the comments during a visit to the Saga vaccination centre in Ramsgate, Kent, as England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty faced questions from the Commons Health and Social Care Committee.

It came as the booster programme continued to pick up pace, with data from the UK’s four health agencies showing a record 745,183 booster and third doses of Covid-19 vaccine were reported across the country on Wednesday, surpassing Tuesday’s tally.

It also emerged today that the Queen has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family party next week.

It’s understood the decision was a precaution, with a Buckingham Palace source suggesting it could put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.

And it is understood the Welsh Government is likely to increase restrictions for a period after Christmas Day with expected measures including limiting the number of people allowed to meet in hospitality and entertainment venues.

But the exact details will be confirmed on Thursday night after sign-off from the country’s cabinet members.

Professor Whitty told the public at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday to prioritise events that ‘really matter to them’ over the festive period, in an effort to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

But Mr Johnson stopped short of matching the warning, instead urging people to ‘think carefully’ before attending celebrations.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Conservative MP for Winchester Steve Brine said: ‘At a stroke the chief medical officer changed Government policy and put this country, certainly hospitality… into effective lockdown. 

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

The above graph shows the % change in Covid infection rates in England week-on-week. It reveals that nationally cases are now also surging among adults in their 20s and beginning to rise in other age groups

The above graph shows the infection rate in age groups compared to the same time a week ago. It reveals that cases are now more than doubling week-on-week among adults in their 20s, and rising in all over-15s

The above graph shows the infection rate in age groups compared to the same time a week ago. It reveals that cases are now more than doubling week-on-week among adults in their 20s, and rising in all over-15s

The above graph is from the UK Health Security Agency's weekly report. It shows that the infection rate in London has skyrocketed after the super-transmissible Omicron variant took hold

The above graph is from the UK Health Security Agency’s weekly report. It shows that the infection rate in London has skyrocketed after the super-transmissible Omicron variant took hold

Where are infections rising fastest in London? 

The capital had 25 of the areas with the fastest growing Covid outbreaks last week, official data shows.

It comes as the Omicron variant takes hold in the capital, and may be an early warning sign for the rest of the country.

The figures were revealed in the UK Health Security Agency’s weekly Covid surveillance report 

Borough

Hackney

Southwark

Islington

Lambeth

Tower Hamlets

Barking

Westminster

Enfield

Haringey

Lewisham

Wandsworth

Newham

Hammersmith

Greenwich

Brent

Camden

Waltham Forest

Croydon

Kensington

Harrow

Kingston

Merton

Bexley

Ealing

Havering

Hillingdon

Redbridge

Bromley

Barnet

Hounslow

Richmond

Sutton 

Covid case rate

832.5

902.1

800.4

927.6

677.8

688 

590.7

620.8

685.9

827.4

875.3

600.1

882.6

822.7

563.5

610

729

707.2

624.1

536.2

784.3

746.4

716.8

630.3

696.3

521

595.4

752.5

584

561.1

743.9

776.6

% rise in a week

+103%

+88%

+88%

+82%

+73%

+67%

+66%

+66%

+65%

+60%

+57%

+55%

+53%

+50%

+48%

+48%

+44%

+40%

+39%

+39%

+39%

+37% 

+37%

+35%

+33%

+28%

+28%

+26%

+25%

+24%

+8%

+7% 

‘Can I ask – yes or no – is what Professor Whitty said last night now the policy of this Government? That we should socialise carefully? What, in practical legal terms, does that mean?

‘And on support, because advisers are now running the show – I bet none of them run a business facing complete ruin as a result of what was said last night – the Treasury is going to have to do more, because otherwise we risk ruining and wasting the amazing support that Her Majesty’s Treasury gave last year.’

Greg Parmley, chief executive of industry body Live, said: ‘The current lockdown by stealth is quickly pushing the live music sector to the edge.’

Prof Whitty told the Health and Social Care Committee on Thursday that he did not wish to dictate to people what they can and cannot do.

But he added: ‘This is about saying to people, look, this is a period to prioritise. And also to be clear, (this) was a message the Prime Minister also said last night.’

The committee heard from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, Dr Susan Hopkins, who said there were 15 people in hospital with the Omicron variant, but Prof Whitty said the ‘real number’ will be ‘much bigger than that’.

‘That is simply the number who are proven, just to be clear,’ he told the committee.

He said it is difficult to know what will happen with the NHS over the next four week, but he expects the height of the Omicron wave will fall faster than previous Covid-19 peaks.

He also said he thinks ‘each six months will be better than the last six months’ when it comes to fighting coronavirus.

Prof Whitty said it is likely that vaccines and antiviral drugs will do ‘almost all of the heavy lifting’ in tackling future variants.

During his visit to Kent, Mr Johnson denied he was imposing a lockdown by stealth.

Speaking to broadcasters, the Prime Minister said the situation was ‘very different’ from last year.

‘What we have is the additional protection of the vaccines, and the ability to test,’ he said.

‘So if you want to do something, if you want to go to an event or a party, then the sensible thing to do, if that’s a priority, the sensible thing to do is to get a test and to make sure that you’re being cautious.

‘But we’re not saying that we want to cancel stuff, we’re not locking stuff down, and the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted.’

A Treasury minister insisted he will take his team out for lunch on Monday.

Conservative frontbencher John Glen told MPs: ‘I think the advice is clear. One should get boosted as quickly as possible, as I did on Saturday.

‘Take the lateral flow tests and act responsibly, and I should be taking my team out in Salisbury on Monday for lunch.’

The news came as business leaders expressed concerns over calls for people to consider limiting their social contacts around Christmas.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting urged the Government to ‘hammer out a deal to help hospitality’, while health minister Gillian Keegan insisted there are still measures in place to help businesses through the pandemic.

With Covid cases now rising in every age group except young children in London there are fears about how this will translate into NHS pressure.  

Department of Health data shows London is now seeing just as many cases as last January, when it was battered by the Alpha variant and put under harsher measures than the rest of the country.

London’s spiralling crisis was initially driven by teenagers and adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who were seeing an uptick in cases two weeks before the ultra-infectious strain was first detected. Infections started to rise in the over-60s days after Omicron was confirmed to be in Britain, according to MailOnline analysis.

In another warning sign for the country, UK Health Security Agency data published today revealed the capital now has the 25 areas with the fastest growing outbreaks in England.

Experts have admitted the capital’s crisis will inevitably slow down because the virus will simply run out of room, and people adhere to dire warnings from Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty’s plea to ‘prioritise’ the most important social events in the coming days.

And they said the astronomical spike in cases being seen in younger adults won’t necessarily occur in over-60s, who are most vulnerable to the virus. Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘This is partly because other age groups don’t socialise as much.’ 

He also said Britain’s booster vaccine drive — which prioritised older adults — should help to thwart the virus’s spread, even though three jabs won’t protect thousands from catching the virus and getting ill.

Scientist hopes it means the rapid increase in cases won’t necessarily translate into monumental pressure on the NHS. Data also shows two vaccines can still drastically slash the risk of severe illness, with Chris Whitty today hinting three jabs against Omicron may be even better than two against Delta.

Hospitalisations in the capital are going up faster than in other regions, concerning official data shows. But on average 153 people are being admitted with the virus every day, barely an eighth of the peak last January when it hit 800.  

Covid UK: ANOTHER record high as Omicron variant drives a spike with 88,376 cases

This graph shows Covid hospitalisations in London. They are now ticking up 40 per cent week-on-week in the capital after Omicron sent cases spiralling

This graph shows Covid hospitalisations in London. They are now ticking up 40 per cent week-on-week in the capital after Omicron sent cases spiralling

Covid deaths are still flat in the capital, but this is a lagging indicator because of the time taken for someone to fall seriously ill with the virus and be hospitalised

Covid deaths are still flat in the capital, but this is a lagging indicator because of the time taken for someone to fall seriously ill with the virus and be hospitalised

Up-to-date Government statistics breaking down infection rates by age group only go up until December 10, so the true trajectory of London’s outbreak will be even bleaker now.

And the same trend of cases rising in older adults has yet to be seen across the other regions of England, which have yet to be struck as badly by Omicron. Experts say the capital is more vulnerable to the variant because it is an international hub and had lower vaccination rates than other regions when the variant began to spread. 

Department of Health statistics showed the infection rate for people in their late 20s in the capital has doubled in a week from 420.7 to 972.4 cases per 100,000 people. And among the early 20s it has jumped from 372.3 to 865.8.

Millions of Brits CANCEL pre-Xmas plans, pubs CLOSE and West End falls silent 

Millions of Britons have axed their festive plans so they can see family on Christmas Day after Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty triggered a ‘tsunamis of cancellations’ for pubs and restaurants by urging the country only to socialise if necessary — and not in large groups or with strangers.

People have started voluntarily self-isolating in a bid to avoid having to isolate on December 25 if they test positive for Covid.

Professor Whitty said that a rise in Omicron hospitalisations is ‘nailed on’ after cases hit a record high yesterday.

He told a televised No 10 press briefing: ‘I think that what most people are doing is — and I would think this seems very sensible — is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to project those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.’

And after weeks of refusing to admit Christmas plans could be under threat, Mr Johnson told the country to cut back on Christmas partying and ‘think carefully’ before going out during the festive season

The Independent SAGE group of scientists and medics has called for an immediate 10-day ‘circuit-breaker’ shutdown, with bans on households mixing and the closure of hospitality firms.

They accused the Prime Minister of ‘delaying’ from imposing tighter controls and said the time for ’emergency action’ had now come.

And doubling down on the Prime Minister’s inference that people must be cut back on socialising to avoid catching Covid over Christmas week, Health Minister Gillian Keegan said: ‘Everybody is urging caution. Most of us will know somebody now who’s positive with Covid, and that means if you’ve tested positive, then you’ll be in isolation over Christmas. So that’s bound to make people a bit more cautious.’

There is also an uptick among older people who are more vulnerable to the virus, with rates among over-60s rising almost 40 per cent in a week from 115.7 to 158.8.

The only age group where cases are pointing down is five to 14-year-olds, where they are dropping by about five per cent week-on-week. 

A total of 80 per cent of over-60s have already received a booster in England, NHS figures show.

Despite Covid cases rising astronomically, London today woke up to a lockdown by stealth with millions staying home rather than running the gauntlet of catching the virus.

Many want to avoid catching the virus before Christmas Day, for fear of being ordered to self-isolate and missing spending the festive season with their loved ones.

Last year Britons were told not to mix with people outside their household, keeping many families apart.

Roads in London were the quietest they have been during the morning rush-hour on any term-time weekday since the summer today, sat-nav apps showed.

The city centre was also left deserted, with pubs empty as people shunned heading into the office. 

Professor Whitty said that the fall in social mixing suggests some of the worst predictions on hospitalisations and deaths may not come true.

It means that the worst case scenarios estimated by modellers are now unlikely to happen. In one paper they suggested admissions could peak at 4,500 a day in the current wave — more than last January.

Covid hospitalisations in the capital are creeping up, with admissions rising 38 per cent from 111 to 153 a day over the week to December 13.

The number of Covid patients on wards has also risen 15 per cent, from 1,095 to 1,267.

And the numbers needing mechanical ventilators is up six per cent to 198 patients. 

Deaths are still flatlining in the capital at around 10 a day, but these are lagging indicators because of the time taken for someone infected with the virus to become seriously ill. 

Professor Whitty estimated yesterday that a further rise in admissions was ‘baked in’ because of the high levels of infection in the country. 

He warned there may be fewer patients in intensive care in South Africa than when Delta hit because more patients have immunity now.

Some 61 per cent of Londoners are double-jabbed, and 26.7 per cent have got a booster.

But this is the lowest rate in England, which experts say likely left the capital more vulnerable to the variant than other regions. 

For comparison, across England 72 per cent of people are double-jabbed and 38 per cent have been boosted.

The highest vaccine uptake is in the South West where 79 per cent of people have already had two doses and nearly 44 per cent have got their third dose.

It is too early to say how well two doses or boosters will protect against hospital admission or death from Omicron but early data from the UK suggests two jabs will be significantly weaker. 

The South African Government claims two doses of Pfizer’s jab provides more than 70 per cent protection against severe illness even with waning immunity. 

Data on boosters will take longer to collect because South Africa is not rolling them out widely yet, and UK scientists say they need 250 Omicron patients in hospital before they can make vaccine efficacy estimates.

Officially, there are currently only 15 patients with the mutant strain in UK hospitals.

But the true number is thought to be higher because of the time taken to analyse samples and detect those who are infected with the mutant strain. 

It comes as the UKHSA’s weekly report on Covid cases shows London now has 25 of the areas with the fastest growing Covid outbreaks in England.

Cases spiralled fastest in Hackney, where they doubled in a week to 832 infections per 100,000 people. It was followed by Southwark, up 88 per cent in a week to 902.1, and Islington, also up 88 per cent in a week to 800.4.

Infections rose in every borough of the capital, but on the other end of the scale outbreaks grew slowest in Sutton, up 7 per cent to 776.6, and Richmond, up eight per cent to 743.9.

Nationally, infections rose in 87 of 149 local authorities — or 58 per cent — with London now having the biggest outbreak of the virus.

Cases in the capital have risen almost by half in a week, up from 475.8 to 702.8 per 100,000. 

Professor Hunter, an infectious diseases expert from the University of East Anglia, said the rapid rise in Covid cases among adults in their 20s in London was unlikely to be replicated in older age groups.

He told MailOnline: ‘If it’s spreading rapidly in this age group [adults in their 20s] it doesn’t mean it is going to spread as rapidly as in other age groups. 

‘This is partly because other age groups don’t socialise as much, and partly because many of the older age groups have actually got already got quite high booster levels.’ 

Professor Hunter also predicted that cases in the capital and across the country would peak in a ‘matter of days’ because the virus will run out of people to infect. 

He said: ‘If it carries on at the rate it’s going then by the end of the year — and given also that we only detect about 40 per cent of infections — we would have pretty much all of the UK population being infected. This is absolutely impossible.’

Instead, he said the country was likely to see a ‘very short, sharp peak’ in infections — likening it to a sombrero.

This will be followed by a surge in hospitalisations, but it is ‘very unlikely’ they will reach levels recorded last January.

SAGE modelling predicts they may hit 2,000 a day nationally, about half the previous peak.

Professor Tim Spector, a top epidemiologist, also predicted that cases in the capital would begin to slow before the New Year.

He said: ‘In London cases have been rising rapidly.

‘But this will likely slow down soon, as people change their behaviour, such as wearing face masks again, cancelling parties and working from home more.

‘These are the changes that will slow the spread of the virus. 

‘It’s my hope that the rest of the country is doing the same to avoid big outbreaks outside of London, especially in big cities.’ 

Stay Connected
16,985FansLike
52,146FollowersFollow
2,458FollowersFollow
spot_img
Must Read
You might also like

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here