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Selasa, 29 Desember 2020

Hospitals near capacity as record 53,000 new COVID cases put UK 'back in the eye of the storm' - ABC News

The United Kingdom is "back in the eye of the storm" of the coronavirus pandemic according to England's health services chief, with the UK registering a new daily record of 53,135 COVID-19 cases.

The figure eclipses the previous record of 41,385 set on Monday, and while the large number also reflects a lag due to Christmas reporting of figures, it also reflects how a new variant of the virus is spreading across the UK.

The latest government figures also included a further 414 people who died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, which takes the total death toll in the UK to 71,567.

"We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of COVID-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable," Susan Hopkins, a senior medical advisor to Public Health England, said in a statement.

Ms Hopkins added that some of the daily rise in cases reflected reporting delays due to Christmas, but the figures were "largely a reflection of a real increase".

"It is essential, now more than ever, that we continue to work together to stop the spread of the virus, bring the rate of infection down, and protect the most vulnerable and the NHS," she said.

Calls for tighter rules to avoid 'catastrophe'

The head of the National Health Service, Sir Simon Stevens, said the second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe had put the UK "back in the eye of the storm", while hospitals around England were reporting higher numbers of COVID patients than during the first wave of the pandemic in April.

A review of England's tiered restrictions system is due on Wednesday, with more areas expected to be placed into tier 4 — the highest level of restrictions — but there are calls for the Government to go further.

"We are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic, and we're going to need decisive early national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February," Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, told the BBC.

Professor Hayward, who sits on a British government advisory body on respiratory diseases, said the new strain of COVID that infected people more easily meant existing lockdown measures in England were unlikely to be enough to slow the spread of the disease.

On December 26 the Government expanded the strictest level of COVID restrictions, under which non-essential retailers are shut and people mostly cannot meet in person, to cover almost half of England's population.

Professor Hayward told the BBC that these curbs needed to be extended further.

"We're really looking at a situation where we're moving into near-lockdown," he said.

Schools in England are due to reopen for many pupils on January 4.

Professor Hayward said that from a purely epidemiological point of view it would make sense to keep them closed longer, but difficulties poorer pupils faced learning online meant curbs on other areas of public life might be preferable.

UK must vaccinate 2 million a week: study

As numbers and hospitalisations rise, a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has concluded Britain must vaccinate 2 million people a week to avoid a third wave of the outbreak.

An elderly woman in a face mask sits in a chair while a nurse injects her with a needle
Margaret Keenan, 90, was the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, on December 8.(AP: Jacob King)

Earlier this month Britain became the first country in the world to roll out the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, and since then more than 600,000 people had received the first dose of the vaccine.

"The most stringent intervention scenario with tier 4 (restrictions) England-wide and schools closed during January and 2 million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU (intensive care) burden below the levels seen during the first wave", the study said.

"In the absence of substantial vaccine roll-out, cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020."

An accelerated uptake of 2 million vaccinated per week "is predicted to have a much more substantial impact", it added.

The study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

Responding to the study, a UK Health Department spokesman said that "over the coming weeks and months the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand".

The British Government has said it has secured early access to 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several developers.

Media reports over the weekend said the UK will roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from January 4, with approval by the country's medical regulator expected within days.

ABC/wires

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2020-12-29 19:54:00Z
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