England reports another record rise in cases; UAE to ban non-vaccinated from travelling abroad

A health boss has said the “next few days are crucial” in the fight to reduce the impact of the Omicron variant, and that the government “must be ready to introduce new restrictions at pace if they’re needed”.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts in England, said staff were working “flat out” and that the NHS was under “arguably more pressure” compared with this time last year.

It came after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, warned restrictions on freedom “must be an absolute last resort”. Figures showed that hospital admissions in England have risen to their highest level since January 2021, while the number of NHS hospital staff absent as a result of the the virus nearly doubled in a month.

A further 189,846 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were registered in the UK on Friday, another new daily record, as the British Medical Association called for further public health measures “urgently to prevent the health service being completely overwhelmed”.

Hopson wrote on Twitter: “NHS preparing for worst & hoping for best.

“Staff flat out, esp. given level of staff absences. We will need to ask them to perform flexible heroics again if hospital Covid numbers continue to rise. We can’t keep doing this. Long term NHS capacity issues must be addressed.”

Hopson said the latest infection data showed a “rapid increase in community infections” that is leading to rising hospital admissions.

He added that if growth rates go back up again after the socialising that will have taken place at Christmas, then hospital trusts will have to “start standing up extra surge capacity late next week”. Hopson said this would put pressure “on less-urgent elective activity”.

Hopson said there were fewer severely unwell elderly people needing intensive care treatment, so the problem was “less one of patient acuity” and more “one of sheer volume of patient numbers” needing general and acute beds.

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