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Doctors warn over increasing number of young people in UK with Covid in ICU

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man takes a swab sample for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from his son at a surge testing site in London, Britain, May 14, 2021. (Reuters photo)

Doctors are warning that increasing numbers of young people infected with the coronavirus are being admitted to hospital in the UK, including to intensive care wards.

After the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted, pictures were released of crowded nightclubs, filled with people not wearing masks or social distancing.

Medics issued a stern warning that unvaccinated young people urgently needed to protect themselves against the fatal disease.

The warning came as the country saw the fifth day in a row of falling Covid case rates, marking the first time that cases have been decreasing continuously without a national lockdown.

Officials have, however, been cautious over whether this is a trend, with scientists giving a cautious welcome to these figures as they do not include the impact of the July 19 easing of restrictions.

On Sunday, Britain reported 29,173 new cases, a fall from 31,795 a day earlier. NHS England said one-third of 18- to 29-year-olds had not had at least one dose of the vaccine yet. This figure falls to one in 10 for the whole adult population.

Although there is less chance of young people dying from Covid, doctors warn that they are increasingly witnessing them become severely unwell.

Dr. Samantha Batt-Rawden, senior intensive care registrar, said patients were “getting younger and younger”.

“The vast majority of those requiring intensive care are unvaccinated: some of them will die. It is heartbreaking for us as NHS staff to watch people suffer unnecessarily knowing that this almost certainly could have been prevented by the vaccine,” she said.

“We are seeing patients in their 30s, or even in their 20s, who are fit and have no other medical problems on ICUs [intensive care units]. As an ICU doctor I am begging you to have the vaccine. Please don’t let not having the jab become the biggest mistake of your life.”

Also, Prof. Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and from the University of Bristol, said 200 had been admitted to hospital, with a mean age of 40, in the city during the Delta variant wave.

“We have had people under 30 on our intensive care unit and also requiring high-level oxygen therapy. This is not always trivial in young adults. There are younger people really getting seriously ill at the moment, so that’s one good reason to think about having the vaccine,” he said on LBC on Sunday.

“But the other one is, these vaccines now – it’s clear – do reduce the risk of not only getting the infection but passing it on to other people.”

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, Covid is now largely an infection among young adults in the UK, with cases in 16- to 24-year-olds almost six times more prevalent than in 50- to 69-year-olds.

Many experts had called on the government to postpone the lifting of restrictions so that more adults could get both Covid doses.

Dr. Adrian Boyle, vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said young people urgently needed to get vaccinated.

He also said although young people getting ill with coronavirus was rare, “suddenly there’s quite a lot of them just because there’s so much Covid around”.

In addition, Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said there were reports of “a much higher proportion of younger patients, under 40”.

“It is important that everyone – whatever their age – understands the risks of remaining unvaccinated,” she said.

Dr. Kaveri Jalundhwala, co-chair of Doctors’ Association UK, a campaigning and lobbying group, also stressed the need for people to get vaccinated.

“Even if only 5% of people are getting long Covid, that’s going to be a huge number of people having a very debilitating condition that might last for a year or longer,” she said.

Meanwhile, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, described as alarming high number of young people infected, saying, “Ministers must do more to promote vaccination, ensure young people have time off to get jabbed and open more pop-up vaccination clinics targeted at young people.”

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