11:40 am – New cases of COVID-19 in Britain hit a record high for the second day in a row Thursday (local time) as England’s chief medical officer warned that daily hospital admissions could also rise to new heights due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Britain has reported 88,376 new infections, the highest since the start of the pandemic and up around 10,000 from the previous record set on Wednesday.
The rise in the number of cases was putting pressure on a health service struggling with staff illness, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Thursday.
Omicron is so transmissible that even though it turns out to be milder than other variants, it could still cause an increase in hospitalizations, Whitty told lawmakers.
The record for the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is 4,583 set in January.
“It’s possible because it’s going to be very focused over a short period of time, even though it’s milder you might end up with a higher count than going to the hospital in one day.” , did he declare.
However, he said vaccinations could reduce the number of intensive care admissions and shorten the time spent in hospital. Thursday there were 849 entries.
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said there were 15 confirmed cases of Omicron in hospitals, but the number was likely much higher.
Although new cases reached an all-time high according to official data, Britain lacked mass testing capacity in March 2020 when the pandemic first hit the country, and the scale of infections at this point is therefore unknown.
A senior emergency doctor said hospitals, especially in London, were struggling to maintain their workforce due to the number of people needing to self-isolate with COVID-19.
“While we are not yet seeing a sharp increase in hospital admissions, we are already seeing the effect of the lack of staff to perform shifts safely and properly”, Katherine Henderson, Emergency Consultant in London and President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told BBC Radio.
“So we’re worried that patients will be injured because we just don’t have the staff. “
The education minister also warned of staff shortages issues and said his department would work with former teachers who wanted to return to the profession to help.
Britain is betting vaccine boosters will prevent serious illness from Omicron.
The government has also advised people to work from home, imposed masks in public places and introduced COVID-19 passes to enter certain places and events in England, but stopped ahead of the measures previous locks.
“If it seemed like vaccines were less effective than we expected, it would be, for example, a significant change in how ministers view risks in the future,” Whitty said.