UK doctors call for return of Covid restrictions; new mutation watched

Firefighter Dan Gosselin wears a face shield that helps expose a Covid-19 patient as he works alongside critical care nurses in the intensive care unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, southern England.

Adrien Dennis | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – Medical professionals in the United Kingdom have issued an urgent appeal to the British government to re-impose some Covid restrictions due to the increasing level of infections and hospitalizations in the country.

Health leaders warned late Tuesday that the UK risked “stumbling into a winter crisis” if the government did not implement “Plan B”, a pledge it made last month in which it said it would reimpose Covid measures if the data pointed to the National Health Service. He was likely to come under unsustainable pressure.

Officials at the NHS consortium, which represents organizations across the UK healthcare sector, issued a statement calling on the government to “take measures, such as mandatory face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces, without delay to keep people healthy and avoid an overwhelmed NHS turn this winter.” “.

They warned that the National Health Service “is witnessing alarming increases in coronavirus cases in its hospitals and the community at a time when it is preparing for a busy winter period, its staff is on the verge of exhaustion, and many of them are expected to recover. Its services have been disrupted by the epidemic.”

The UK is currently recording between 40,000 and 50,000 new Covid cases per day and the number of hospitalizations and deaths continues to rise, although at a much lower pace than it was previously in the pandemic thanks to the Covid vaccines, significantly reducing the risk of severe infections, Hospitalization and death.

On Tuesday, the UK reported 43,738 new cases of COVID-19, down from Monday when 49,156 new cases were registered, the highest daily number in three months.

Situation ‘will get worse’

Covid restrictions were lifted in England on July 19 when bars, restaurants and nightclubs reopened. Wearing masks has also become largely a matter of personal choice apart from public transportation.

The government, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has previously insisted that Covid restrictions, and possible lockdowns, will only return as a last resort and that the country must “learn to live with the virus”.

On Wednesday, British Business Secretary Kwasi Quarting reiterated that position, saying: “I absolutely think it would be completely wrong for us to go back to lockdown,” he told Radio Times.

Noting that hospitalization and death rates were much lower than at the previous peak of the epidemic, he added, “We are learning, I think, to live with the virus.”

The NHS said on Tuesday that additional measures the UK could now include “clear communication to the public that the level of risk has risen, certification of people’s Covid vaccine status, legally requiring people to wear face coverings in certain places, as well as considering requiring people to work.” from home if they can.”

The NHS noted that many of these measures, particularly in relation to the wearing of masks and Covid certification, are “already common in parts of Europe where the spread of disease is less”.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Matthew Taylor, the union’s chief executive, warned that the NHS, a much-loved institution in the UK and more so during the pandemic, was “on the edge” with the number of Covid patients seen to rise in hospitals.

“I talk to health leaders every day, and I literally haven’t spoken to any leader who wouldn’t say their service is under too much pressure right now. It’s mid-October. Things are only going to get worse,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“The health service is on the brink…if you push any further we will not be able to provide the level of service that people need.”

new mutation

Making matters worse, probably, is a new mutation in the delta variant that British experts are watching closely.

Last Friday, the UK’s Health Security Agency released a report saying that “the newly designated delta subspecies AY.4.2 has been observed to be expanding in England” and that it was monitoring the subtype.

The highly contagious delta variant is the dominant version of the coronavirus worldwide, 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 Covid cases in the UK, with some suggesting it may be another possible factor in the rising case numbers, although it is too early to know for sure.

“This sub-sequence is currently increasing in frequency. It includes the spike mutants A222V and Y145H. In the week beginning September 27, 2021 (the last week with full sequencing data), this sub-sequence represents approximately 6% of all resulting sequences, on an increasing trajectory. This estimate may be inaccurate… Further assessment is underway,” the UK Health Security Agency noted.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told Sky News on Tuesday:[AY.4.2] It’s something we’re watching closely “and there is currently no evidence to suggest that this variant spreads more easily.” There is no evidence of this, but as you would expect, we are watching it closely and we win “feel free to take action if necessary”.

Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also tweeted about the subtype at the weekend.

“The UK reported the largest single-day increase in Covid cases in 3 months, just as the new delta variant AY.4 with mutation S:Y145H reached 8% of UK serial cases,” Gottlieb said. “We need urgent research to see if these extra deltas are more transmissible, do they have partial immune evasion?”

The subtype “needs to be monitored and, to the extent possible, carefully controlled,” Danny Altman, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC Monday.

“Since delta has now been the dominant mutant in many regions for about six months and has not been displaced by any other variables, it was hoped that delta would be representative [the] Peak mutation performance achieved by the virus. He cautioned that AY.4 may begin to cast doubt on this assertion.”

Why is the UK in such a mess?

Experts say there are a variety of reasons behind the UK’s steep Covid numbers – from lukewarm mask adoption (even when masks are required, like on public transport the rule is rarely enforced) to large indoor gatherings that have allowed it. Virus spread.

The UK’s reluctance to vaccinate younger teenagers, which other countries in Europe and the US had done much earlier, and to return to schools in September, were also cited as reasons for the sharp rise in cases. The data show though that the surge in infections among 0-18-year-olds is now declining as infection rates rise in their parents’ generation.

Ironically, the UK’s early vaccination launch – which began in December 2020 and was one of the first in the world – is also seen as contributing to the higher rate of cases now because we know – due to the growing data set – that vaccination immunity wanes in people after about six Months. Official data shows that 78.9% of the UK population over the age of 12 has been vaccinated so far.

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