UK faces ‘difficult new year’ battling Covid

Gavin Williamson ‘absolutely confident’ schools are returning

The UK faces a “very difficult new year” fighting the coronavirus pandemic, officials have warned, despite the approval of two vaccines for Covid-19.

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery warned that there would be hard times ahead in the first weeks of 2021 as pressure on hospitals was “intensifying”.

It came as a joint statement from Professor Chris Whitty and the chief medical officers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland defended a revised plan to give as many people their first coronavirus vaccine dose as possible before completing the two dose programme.

The medical officers urged doctors to back the plan to combat the pandemic which they said was “running rampant in our communities”.

They added that experts were “confident” based on available data that the first dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would provide “substantial protection” from Covid-19 in the first few weeks after receiving the first dose.


Coronavirus now rampant in Irish communities, health chief warns

Coronavirus is now rampant in Irish communities, with a whole set of “worst case scenarios” coming together to create “explosive impacts”, the head of the country’s Health Service Executive has said.

“The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community, we know that for a fact,” Paul Reid said.

“Everybody is extremely high risk now of contracting the virus. We really need our vulnerable groups to be on our highest guard, everybody. And there’s no doubt our health service is on what we would call high alert.”

Mr Reid urged the public to stay at home and adhere to the public health advice.

“We really need everybody to take the real appropriate actions that we’re calling out to everybody to do, which in essence is retract,” he added.

“Retract back to our homes, reduce our contacts drastically and really protect ourselves in the coming days and weeks.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 10:19


UK Covid situation currently ‘unsustainable’, official warns

The Royal College of Nursing’s England director has warned that the UK is in the “eye of the storm” in its response to the coronavirus pandemic and the current situation is “unsustainable”.

Mike Adams told Sky News: “We did go into this pandemic with a huge shortage of healthcare staff, in particular nurses.

“If you then add in the exhaustion, the tiredness, the sickness rates that have begun to creep in, this is the outcome that no-one wants but it is really a last resort for people to come in off their leave.”

He added: “Long term, this will have a detrimental effect on workers, people need a break, they have got to get their rest.

“So, it is the eye of the storm and it is a situation that is unsustainable.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 10:03


Expectation of mass use of Nightingale hospitals ‘misplaced’

The expectation of a mass rollout in capacity through the Nightingale hospitals is “misplaced”, the England director of the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

Mike Adams told Sky News that staff leave was already being cancelled in different NHS trusts across England.

When asked if there was enough staffing capacity to fill the emergency hospitals, he added: “If we are having to cancel leave to staff these areas, the obvious question is where will the staff come from to open the Nightingales?

“I am sure there will be moves to open some beds, there are some beds open in different Nightingale hospitals in different areas of the country.

“I have real concerns that the expectation that this mass rollout in capacity can happen is misplaced because there aren’t the staff to do it.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 09:53


Wuhan rings in 2021 with huge crowds as Covid battle continues worldwide

As millions of people around the world experienced New Year’s Eve under tough restrictions, the Chinese city where Covid-19 is thought to have originated brought in 2021 with mass celebrations.

People in Wuhan gathered in front of the old Hankow Customs House building, one of the city’s most popular New Year’s Eve spots, last night and released balloons into the air to celebrate the new year at midnight.

You can find the full story below:

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 09:40


Pressure on London hospitals ‘appears to be spreading to rest of UK’

The dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine has warned that added pressures being seen at London hospitals dealing with high numbers of coronavirus patients appears to have started to spread across the country.

When asked whether the problems in the capital were becoming more “widespread”, Dr Alison Pittard told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “That’s what appears to be happening.

“Everyone has seen what is happening in London and the pressure that is putting both on organisations and on staff as well, and we fear it is only a matter of time before it starts to spread to other parts of the country, and we are already starting to see that.”

She added: “It is really important that we try and stop the transmission in the community because that translates into hospital admissions.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 09:28


‘Quite quiet’ New Year’s Eve in London, Met Police says

New Year’s Eve was “quite quiet” in London, where Tier 4 restrictions kept pubs and restaurants closed last night, according to the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation.

Ken Marsh said sporadic gatherings of people “who just won’t take note of what is being said” were dealt with by officers and smaller gatherings were also dispersed on Thursday night.

“I think the public have really cottoned on that this is really serious, the position that we are in, and we did not see the numbers we thought we would,” Mr Marsh told BBC Breakfast.

He added that the number of officers who were now off with Covid-19 or self-isolating had been peaking over the last three or four weeks.

“We have got probably 1,200 or 1,300 officers who are off with Covid or self-isolating and that is predicted to double in the next couple of weeks, and puts a massive strain on my colleagues who are still at work performing their roles,” he told the BBC.

“There are no other officers available other than what is in the pot.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 09:17


Revised vaccination plan will ‘save lives’, expert says

A former director of immunisation at the Department of Health has backed the revised coronavirus vaccine strategy delaying the rollout of second doses of the jab in order to give more people their first dose.

Professor David Salisbury told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course I accept it is inconvenient and isn’t helpful to have to change appointments and explain to people [about the delay in receiving a second jab] but the reason for doing this is to save lives.

“The number vaccinated so far is realistically a trickle when we needed a flood.”

He added: “We know how many have been vaccinated, and across the whole country it isn’t all that many, but every time we give a second dose right now, we are holding that back from someone who is likely, if they get coronavirus, to die and much more likely to die than somebody who has already had a single dose.

“I just think it is so clear that this is what we should be doing.”

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 09:02


UK’s chief medical officers defend revised vaccination plan

The UK’s chief medical officers have defended a revised plan to give as many people as possible their first coronavirus vaccine dose before completing the planned two dose programme.

Patients will now be given one dose of the vaccine, with the second dose coming in up to 12 weeks rather than 3 weeks as previously expected, to maximise the number of people receiving some protection against the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty and the CMOs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they were confident that the first dose would provide “substantial protection” to people from Covid-19.

Our health correspondent, Shaun Lintern, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 08:54


Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic today.

Conrad Duncan1 January 2021 08:43

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