In his address yesterday UK PM Boris Johnson noted Covid hospitalisations were up by a third in only a week with a total of 26,600 Covid patients in hospital, i.e. 40% above the first wave peak.
“The new variant is increasing the number of infections. That is part of the story” says Dr Fierens. “But the discussion about a new lockdown to allow children to return to school safely in January has been going on since long before Christmas.”
Restrictions for Christmas were tightened up, but not sufficiently says Dr Fierens, who believes hospitals are now seeing the ramifications in the UK.
“On Sunday the PM claimed there was no reason to close schools. Yesterday evening he said they had to close after all. Panicky measures like that make it hard for people to understand what they need to do. The new variant is a reality, but it too requires human contact to spread and the government has failed to prevent this.”
Dr Fierens believes the lack of qualified medical staff is a greater problem than hospital capacity: “Apparently, somewhere there’s a military hangar with 30,000 Chinese ventilators. The problem is the staff, especially nurses. In critical care there used to be one nurse per patient. Today it’s one for four or five patients.”
The Flemish doctor also points to the seven Nightingale hospitals, i.e. emergency hospitals in exhibition centres and the like. They are not used due to a lack of extra staff.
Staff shortages are an old ill in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) writes our UK editor Katrien Vanderschoot. There have been rounds of cuts and the population is aging too. In the run-up to Brexit many European doctors and nurses went home. In the referendum campaign Mr Johnson promised there would be extra cash for the NHS thanks to the UK leaving the EU, but that still needs to materialise.