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UK COVID cases hit record high as hospitals struggle with staff shortages

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)
Medical workers move a patient between ambulances outside of the Royal London Hospital amid the spread of the COVID-19, London, Britain, January 27, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The UK hits the record for the number of COVID-19 cases, with 88,376 new cases, of which, more than 10,000 have been confirmed as Omicron variant.

Addressing the House of Commons Transport Committee on Wednesday, UK Health Security Agency Chief Executive Jenny Harries warned that Omicron is “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic.”

The previous record was hit by Alpha variant earlier in June, as the UK entered the lockdown spurred by the new wave.

Harries also raised the alarm for a “quite staggering” rise in cases over the next few days.

Giving his seal of approval to Harries’ warning, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that the new wave of the Omicron variant will “peak quite fast,” as he suggested there are some “really key bits of information” missing that would inform the need for a lockdown.

Addressing the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Thursday, Professor Whitty said “the upswing will be incredibly fast even if people are taking more cautious actions – as they are – that will help slow it down, but it is still going to be very fast.”

“It will probably peak really quite fast and my anticipation is it may come down faster than previous peaks,” he added.

“In terms of where we are going over the next few weeks, the rate of increase is going to be quite impressive,” Prof. Whitty noted.

Considering all the warnings and precautions for the coming days, it is expected to have an increase in the number of hospitalizations. 

The development comes as some hospitals in the country, particularly in London, are facing staff shortages amid the omicron variant surging all over the country.

Speaking to the BBC Radio on Thursday, Katherine Henderson, an emergency consultant in London and President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said, “The acute problem is actually to do with staffing. Even if we are not seeing a big rise in hospitalizations yet, we are already seeing the effect on not having the staff to run shifts properly and safely.”

“So we are worried about patient harm coming about because we just don’t have the staff,” she added.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were thought to be 200,000 infections each day, doubling roughly every two days.

The turmoil appears in the country as France has toughened travel rules for the UK travelers in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant to the country.

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