Britain could return to its disastrous ‘protect the NHS’ Covid policy if the latest spike in infections and hospital admissions impedes the health service’s ability to treat other conditions, a Government minister has said. MailOnline has more.
Lord Syed Kamall, a junior health minister, said the extortionate free lateral flow testing scheme may return as he raised the prospect of mandatory face masks also making a comeback. Both measures were axed in April as part of No. 10’s ‘living with Covid’ plan.
He told the House of Lords today: “They [health officials] are still focusing on the backlog. If it gets to a point where it is affecting the backlog then clearly measures may well have to be introduced.”
Individual hospitals have already started to reintroduce face masks and social distancing in corridors and waiting rooms as Covid hospital admissions near an 18-month high, in the first sign of curbs creeping back into normal life.
There were 1,911 Covid admissions in England on July 4th – the latest date with data – and at current pace they are due to rise further in the coming days. If average daily admissions rise above 2,100 it will mark the highest number since the peak of the second wave in January 2021 – when there were more than 4,000.
But only a third of patients are primarily sick with Covid, which suggests rising admissions are a symptom of high infection rates rather than severe disease.
The majority (64%) are known as ‘incidental’ cases – patients who went to hospital for a different reason but happened to test positive.
More than 2.7 million Britons were estimated to have been infected with Covid – one in 24 people – at the end of June. Trusts have warned they face rising staff absences caused by high levels of transmission in the community, combined with additional admission pressure.
Asked what the Government was prepared to do in the face of rising infections, Lord Kamall said:
We are always ready to stand up measures should the case rates rise so much that our health system was under pressure, but also what we have managed to do is break the link between infections and hospitalisations, and hospitalisations and death. If that gets out of control then of course we will stand up the measures that we have previously.
Lord Kamall would not rule out a return of free testing:
All this will continue to be monitored. Should the number of cases spiral out of control then clearly we would look to reintroduce free testing at some stage if it needed that.
He also said it is “entirely appropriate” that hospitals reintroduce face masks, despite national guidance to drop them being brought in just last month – though he did add there is no need for wider restrictions for the public. Yet.
Depressingly, if unsurprisingly, it’s clear that the Government has not taken a hard look at lockdowns and other restrictions and found them to be too costly, ineffective and unethical to be warranted, but sees them still very much in play.
Worth reading in full.