t is unlikely the UK will see a large spike in serious illness and deaths due to the Omicron variant, a top statistician has said.
Sir David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge told the BBC data in London suggests hospitalisations are stabilising and may even be declining, although admissions are rising in other parts of the country.
He said: “There’s still no sign of a serious increase in intensive care ventilation and deaths, and we would have expected to see that by now.”
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Council office workers urged to take on social care roles amid staff absences
Back-office council workers are being asked to volunteer to step into social care roles as the Omicron variant is reducing staffing levels due to illness and isolation.
North Yorkshire County Council is asking those in “non-critical services” in highways, planning and other office roles to help keep vulnerable people safe.
They would be asked to carry out tasks such as cooking, cleaning and helping older people to eat, as well as assisting them to speak to relatives on the phone or online.
The council said training will be provided and it will match new duties with volunteers’ normal working patterns.
NHS staff Covid absences double in a week in some areas, data shows
NHS hospital staff absences due to Covid more than doubled in a week across the North East and Yorkshire, new figures show.
A total of 8,788 NHS staff at hospital trusts in the region were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on January 2, up 110% on the 4,179 reported on Boxing Day.
The new NHS England figures, published on Friday, also show Covid hospital staff absences in the North West rose by 85% week-on-week from 3,966 to 7,338, while in the Midlands it was up 65% to 7,931, from 4,812.
Covid staff absences at acute trusts rose by 58% week-on-week in the South West, 42% in the South East and 40% in eastern England.
But the lowest rise was in London, where the Omicron variant first began to surge, with hospital staff absences due to Covid rising 4% from 4,580 on Boxing Day to 4,765 on January 2.
Weekly Covid deaths revised up by 261 after coding error – ONS
The number of weekly registered coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has been revised upwards by more than 250 after a coding error, statisticians say.
Some 261 deaths registered in the week to December 24 were mistakenly not recorded as having involved Covid-19, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.
It takes the total number of registered deaths that week, where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, to 852, up from 591.
The ONS said an issue with its automated coding system meant the causes and contributory factors for some deaths were coded late.
International travel returning to pre-pandemic levels, says holiday boss
Demand for foreign holidays is recovering towards pre-pandemic levels following the relaxation of coronavirus travel rules, according to travel firms.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of tour operator Jet2holidays and leisure airline Jet2.com, said bookings soared after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that the testing and quarantine requirements for arrivals will be eased.
Bookings to popular holiday destinations such as Majorca have risen since PM’s announcement
His firm reported huge popularity for trips to mainland Spain, the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, Turkey, and Greece.
James Corden tests positive for COVID
James Corden has tested positive for coronavirus.
The Late Late Show host said on Instagram that he felt “completely fine” – but added the programme would be off the air for several days.
“I just tested positive for covid 19,” he wrote.
“I’m fully vaccinated, boosted and because of this am fortunate enough to say I feel completely fine.
“Stay safe everyone. All my love, James x”
Corden is the latest US TV talk show host to test positive for coronavirus after Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Whoopi Goldberg.
More than 4,700 NHS staff absent in London last week
A total of 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59 per cent on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508), according to new figures from NHS England.
The total includes staff who were ill with coronavirus or who were having to self-isolate.
In London absences were up four per cent week-on-week, from 4,580 to 4,765.
‘People are suffering’, chairman of BMA says
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), told Sky News it was important that “the Government doesn’t just wait to ride this out, because every day people are suffering.”
He said there are two or three things that must be done, adding: “One is we do need to bring down levels of Omicron infections in the community because healthcare staff and frontline key staff, just members of the general population, if you have such high levels of Omicron, over 200,000 on many days last week on a daily basis, you will have NHS staff and other staff isolating and off ill, it’s as simple as that.
“So the infection rates do need to be brought down. The second thing is we need to ensure that those of us who are working on the front line who are mixing with patients who are infectious, need to be properly protected.
“And one of the things we’ve been calling for is higher grade masks that can filtrate the airborne spread of Covid-19 and Omicron as opposed to the normal paper surgical masks.”
He said some NHS staff still could not access the lateral flow tests needed to allow them to return to work after seven days of isolation instead of 10 days.
Military remains in discussion about more NHS support in other parts of country – Air Commodore
Air Commodore John Lyle told BBC Breakfast the military remains in discussion about further support for the NHS in other parts of the country.
“We can’t really forecast too far ahead, but certainly, throughout this current surge, we know that it’s particularly difficult in London at the minute but we are aware that this is impacting all across the United Kingdom,” he said.
“And so we remain in discussions and there are a number of areas where we’re looking at the potential for more assistance.
“So, over the coming weeks or months, I think we’ll learn a lot from how the progress is made through London and potentially there could be further military support required in other areas.”
Encouraging signs London emerging from Omicron wave, says minister
London will receive armed forces support to deal with a high absence rate among health staff but there are “encouraging” signs the city is emerging from the Omicron wave, according to a minister.
Minister for London Paul Scully, when asked whether Omicron was easing in the capital, told LBC: “I think it is looking encouraging, the trend at the moment, but clearly we need to be on our guard because there is still pressure on the NHS in London.
“It is not just about the case numbers – there is a clear disconnect between case numbers and hospitalisations – but you’ve also then, because of the increased testing and the increased awareness by people, you’ve got bigger absences as well, and that’s obviously putting extra pressure on the NHS and other public services.”
Mr Scully said the military personnel being deployed in the capital would be a “mixture of medics, porterage and these kinds of things” to assist hospitals, but said he did not have details about where they would be helping out.
He added: “What we also have is a digital staff passport for the NHS, which allows staff to move between hospitals, so where the pressure is most acute, that’s where NHS staff will be put, but also the military staff as well.”
Army ‘helping out in different ways’, says health boss
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the personnel would be “helping out in different ways depending on whether or not they are clinically qualified, so obviously if people have medical skills, then they can be used in clinical settings”.
Others would be used helping “in relation to transport or potentially setting up facilities… we’re building a surge capacity in some of our hospitals to deal with the numbers of patients coming in”.
Mr Taylor said there were several thousand NHS staff absent primarily due to Covid, and that “having two hundred extra people is going to help but it’s only a very small part of what will continue to be a very difficult situation”.