UK hospitals facing ‘considerable’ pressure; Spain registers over 370,000

Madrid Desk, Jan 3 (EFE).- British prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday said UK hospitals would face “considerable pressure” in the coming weeks due to a surge of coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant, but insisted that the current restrictions in England were sufficient.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination center in Buckinghamshire, north of London, the Conservative leader maintained that the variant “is plainly milder” than others, although he insisted it would be “folly” to believe that the pandemic was over and said that sticking with current restrictions – known as “Plan B” – was the best approach.

“The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue on the path that we are on, but of course we’ll keep all the data under review,” he added.

In England, where record numbers of infections were registered over Christmas, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces such as transport and supermarkets is compulsory (not in the hotel and catering industry) and a vaccination pass or negative test is required to enter large events or nightclubs. Working from home is also recommended where possible.

High school students must be tested before returning to the classroom this week and will need to wear masks at all times.

Neighboring France, which suspended all travel from the UK in December, is beginning the year cautiously after seeing record breaking numbers of cases in recent days.

The peak of the current wave is expected to bring a surge of hospital admissions and could see more than 200,000 daily infections.

To ease staffing shortages in several sectors, authorities have reduced isolation periods for vaccinated people, who will only have to undergo a seven-day quarantine when they test positive, or five days if they test negative again after 48 hours without displaying symptoms.

Close contacts who are vaccinated will not have to self-isolate – they are only recommended to take extreme precautions – but they will have to get tested.

More than 5 million unvaccinated people – not counting children under 12 – will have to be quarantined for 10 days if they test positive and for seven days if they are close contacts.

Spain reported on Monday evening 372,766 coronavirus cases since the last update on Thursday, an unprecedented figure. The incidence rate also shot up to 2,295 cases per 100,000 people, the highest ever recorded.

The Spanish region of Catalonia has also identified cases of “flurona,” the name given to the simultaneous infection of influenza and Covid, which would be the first detected in Spain.

“We have one or two cases, but they do not represent a difference with respect to the others; they are few, they are anecdotal and have no more relevance,” the director of the Catalan Health Service, Gemma Craywinckel, said at a press conference Monday.

Amid high rates of viral transmission, the two pathogens can co-exist in one body, the doctor explained, although she insisted that more serious cases have not yet been observed.

Craywinckel is worried about the “saturation” of the healthcare system due to rising Covid cases, which translates into sustained rises in hospitalized patients and occupants of intensive care units (ICUs), as well as mortality rates.

“I don’t know if the peak (of contagions) will be in one week, two or three, but we have not arrived there and this worries us; we have days of admissions and critical days left,” she warned. EFE



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