Today is the last of the prolonged holiday for this Christmas and New Year. Yet again the very limited data was late and is not likely to be very accurate for various reasons. There has been no hospital data since 27th December and at present this is the most important. We have not had a count on the number of tests done since 30th December and the death figures are rubbish because it reflects the registration not the absolute number of those who have died today. You can expect much larger numbers this coming week, as registration catches up.
If you look at the media speculation based on this same data, you will find numerous errors. For instance, they are claiming there are signs of a plateau in new cases. We know there were 157,758 cases recorded as positive today, This is a 50% rise or 396 thousand more cases in the last week. Just how can this be a plateau? We do not have the figures but as many are off work and the schools on holiday, I anticipate many less tests being done. If most people have little or no symptoms and have not been tested it is clear that if the number of tests done is lower, then the number positive is lower.
The media suggests that hospitals are beginning to be overwhelmed and this would appear to be true, but when we need it most, the statistics are missing as not collected and collated over the holidays. It will be two or three days before we see the true picture.
The next week or so is quite critical. It is clear that the very large numbers of people with Covid are not causing the same numbers in hospitals. Figures are rising but at a fraction of the rate. Just how long we can continue like this is critical. What counts more now is the large numbers of sick or isolating. This is more likely to cause the NHS to fail or various food distribution systems to collapse.
In my own County yesterday all NHS employees received a personal and confidential letter marked not to be shared outside of the Trust. The letter spelt out that staffing levels were at a dangerously low level and that patients were at risk. It set out some of the steps proposed to overcome the crisis.
By 10pm last night the full contents of the letter were being shared on social media and by this morning was an item on the news.
Did the Trust Board really think they could possibly keep that sort of news quiet. Why waste time even trying. If is factually correct, releasing it though the correct channel would surely have been much more sensible open and honest. It might also have found more volunteers or staff willing to come out of retirement. I would not be surprised if now they launch a witch hunt to find who leaked the letter.
The issue of staff absence needs very careful judgement, not a hasty change in the rules. If we see that ITU bed requirement does not rise significantly over the next few days and at the same time if people continue to come forward for their 3rd jabs, we may be in a position to review the isolation and quarantine rules. We should consider whether it is necessary for an otherwise fit person with three doses of vaccine would need to isolate at all unless they become unwell. We may even go a stage further and say if your symptoms are no more than a heavy cold and you feel well enough to work then please do so.
The more people that are vaccinated the less risky this approach would be. Only the unvaccinated would worry and they would know exactly what they have to do. A significant number could then return to work.
To do this change requires the highest possible levels of immunity. We may have to start depriving those who refuse some of the privileges that fully immunised people have.
I am also concerned by those claiming that school children wearing masks all day is doing harm to their physical and mental health. Children are very resilient. They will be confused as to why they are not wearing masks when teachers and parents are. I cannot see it damaging mental health in any way. Children in the Far East wear masks as an everyday experience and have done for many years without harm.
Mask hygiene is universally appalling. The mask is meant to trap virus particles on it and prevent them getting into our airways. This means after a spell wearing it, we should remove it carefully and dispose of or add to laundry without touching it, as it is contaminated. No body is doing this they are just stuffed in a pocket or bag and used numerous times before changing. It makes hand hygiene very important.
This may have been a more difficult report to read than usual, if so I do apologise. You should consider everything you read with a questioning mind. The best way to deal with pandemics does change over time as it evolves. The last thing we need is a resistant new mutation. What does not change is the need to maintain full immunity with the jabs and the need to avoid, or at least, minimise the risk of infection using hand hygiene, masks, good ventilation, social distancing, and common sense by avoiding crowds. Let’s all stay safe, keep the NHS functioning, and ensure I am not still writing these reports next January.