Hospitals issue desperate appeal to staff as new strain of coronavirus spreads ‘like wildfire’


The new variant of the coronavirus ‘is spreading like wildfire’ in the north-west of England as cases continue to rise across the country, putting additional pressure on the ailing NHS.

The most infectious strain was responsible for the dramatic increase in positive cases in the southeast in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Now he has been identified in a peak in Cumbria, according to Public Health England.

The region’s director of public health Colin Cox said infections were “skyrocketing” as the variant “spread like wildfire” across Cumbria, accounting for 75% of newly identified and exerting cases. “Enormous pressure” on local hospitals.

Although millions more were placed at Level 4 this week, Sage documents released on Thursday suggest that even a full lockdown would not be able to stop the spread of the more infectious Covid strain.

It is believed to be behind the surge in infections in the south-east and London, which has crippled hospitals and forced thousands of operations to be canceled.

Nationally, Thursday was another record day for infections with 55,892 cases reported in 24 hours and 964 deaths.

Hospitals in London are rushing to open more beds with wards for children, operating theaters and clinic rooms turned into beds.

The city is expected to need 1,553 intensive care beds by Jan. 4, but forecasts suggest hospitals will struggle to meet the target. NHS England said the Nightingale Field Hospital at London’s ExCel Center will open to accommodate fewer sick patients to reduce the pressure.

At University College London Hospital, an urgent appeal was made on Thursday for staff to help support intensive care patients on Fridays and on weekends when “demand is very likely to exceed capacity.”

In an email sent by medical directors Geoff Bellingan, staff at Charles House and Tim Hodgson were told: “This second outbreak of Covid is serious and is likely much larger than the first.

They revealed that the main intensive care unit is now full of Covid patients with a second already 75% full and a third large intensive care unit for 25 patients under construction.

“All of this requires a considerable staff and we are entering the bank holiday weekend with no sure rotas to open the USI, but with the almost definitive need that we will have to open at least in part this weekend. Unless we prepare the rotas, we cannot do it on a holiday, so tomorrow will be decisive. ”

Clinical teams have been urged to free up as many staff to help as possible, including junior doctors, surgeons and physicians.

At the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Chief Medical Officer Alistair Chesser told staff on Thursday that the situation at the hospital was “rapidly escalating”, adding: “Sadly, we now find ourselves really short of nursing support throughout. weekend starting tonight. We really need anyone who can do health care support duties to please come forward.

He revealed that some consultant surgeons had volunteered for nursing shifts.

A worker said the hospital lost 26 nurses in its intensive care unit on Thursday evening.

On Wednesday, a previous message to staff warned: “We are now in disaster medicine mode. We are no longer providing high level intensive care because we cannot.

“While far from ideal, it’s the way things are, and what they should be right now. ”

Beyond London, pressures are felt across the country. A quarter of new Covid-19 cases in Greater Manchester are from the new variant according to Mayor Andy Burnham.

He said about 25% of new cases of Covid in Greater Manchester could be attributed to the new strain by adding “it’s probably higher”.

Mr Burnham said the latest figures were taken from the week leading up to Christmas and therefore would minimize the spread of the new strain in the region.

Buckinghamshire followed Essex in declaring a major incident amid fears that the growing number of Covid-19 patients could overwhelm health services. Elective surgeries and outpatient appointments have been postponed while urgent and cancer operations will continue.

Across England, from December 18 to 24, the weekly rate of Covid-19 cases rose to 402.6 per 100,000 population, a 32% increase from the previous week. A total of 14,915 patients were admitted to hospital last week, an 18% increase from the previous week.


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