Surge

EIGHT More Nightingale Hospital Hubs Stand Empty as Surge Predicted by Government Models Fails to Appear

Eight Nightingale hospital surge hubs were built by the Government this winter for an undisclosed amount of money that now stand empty in anticipation of a wave that never came. MailOnline has more.

This is the first look inside one of the NHS‘ new Nightingale surge hubs – which officials concede might never be used as the Omicron wave continues to recede.

The temporary site on the grounds of Royal Preston Hospital is one of eight commissioned across England last month, when the fourth wave looked as if it could threaten the health service. 

It has been assembled in the car park at the city’s biggest hospital in less than four weeks and can house roughly 100 Covid patients – but it is currently empty. 

Local NHS bosses have indicated that the new hub might never be used and medical unions have warned it could swallow up staff and pull resources away from other parts of the health service. 

Other make-shift structures are being built in London, Leeds, Solihull, Leicester, Stevenage, Ashford and Bristol for an undisclosed amount of money.

England’s original Nightingale hospitals, built in 2020, cost a total of £500million, which included running costs, stand-by costs and decommissioning costs. But they saw only light use before being mothballed.

The new, smaller sites will remain on standby to look after Covid sufferers who are not well enough to go home but need minimal supervision during their recovery.      

Kevin McGee, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust which looks after the Royal Preston, previously said: “My hope is that we never have to use it. We’re planning for it, and that’s quite right because we need to make sure that we put the appropriate capacity in place should we need it, but I’m hopeful we can manage within our core bed base.”

However, Dr Brian McGregor, of the British Medical Association (BMA), said staffing more beds would mean “falling further behind” on routine work.

Worth reading in full.

The Compelling Evidence that Variants Drive Covid Surges

Recently, Anthony Brookes, a Professor of Genomics and Health Data Science at the University of Leicester, wrote a piece for the Daily Sceptic arguing that central to the virus’s surge-and-decline behaviour is the emergence of new variants, which are “able to infect (or re-infect) some fraction of individuals”.

He writes:

A series of SARS-CoV-2 variants have arisen, many of which possessed a transient selective advantage that led to a wave of infection that peaked some three-to-four months later. Several such variants have spread globally, though different successful variants have arisen simultaneously in a number of countries. The result is a three-to-four month wave pattern per country, which is also apparent globally.

The global wave pattern is shown below. It features an extended autumn and winter wave, a spring wave and a summer wave (seasons here for the northern hemisphere, of course). Note that this graph is raw positive test numbers so does not allow for increased testing.

To illustrate how this global pattern is reflected in different countries and how it relates to the emergence of new variants, I have superimposed the graph of variant proportions over time from the CoVariants website onto the positivity rate curves (the proportion of tests that come back positive, which takes into account changes in the amount of testing) from Our World in Data. I’ve done this for the 12 countries which have done the most sequencing of virus samples (according to CoVariants), plus Israel and South Africa.

Pubs Could Be Forced to Reintroduce Social Distancing During ‘Covid Surges’ if They Don’t Check Vaccine Passports

Rather than forcing hospitality venues to check vaccine passports later this year, the Government is considering giving pubs and restaurants a ‘choice’: check the vaccination status of customers or reintroduce social distancing (that is, massively reduce profits) during ‘Covid surges’. The Telegraph has the story.

The idea is being looked at as an alternative to changing the law to mandate vaccine passports – a tougher stance that Boris Johnson warned could be adopted next month.

Under the latest proposal, venues with large indoor crowds would not be forced to adopt vaccine passports but would be offered incentives to adopt them instead.

This could include being able to stay open at full capacity, rather than only being allowed to conduct table service and have no punters at bars, if there is another Covid wave.

One adviser to a Cabinet minister said the idea was being discussed, saying that there was now momentum inside the Government behind some form of Covid certification this autumn.

A similar proposal had been considered by a review led by Michael Gove into Covid certification earlier in the year but was dropped as daily cases fell during the spring. …

But Mark Harper, who leads the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, criticised the Government for considering any form of vaccine passport in a domestic setting.

Mr Harper said: “Given our very high uptake of vaccination, especially among the groups vulnerable to Covid, what problem are these disproportionate ideas trying to solve? 

“I’m surprised the Government is even suggesting it – it’s almost like they don’t believe that our vaccines work. Just the suggestion will damage business confidence.

“The case for vaccine passports is not backed up by evidence from the Government’s own events research programme. Ministers would be wise to drop these threats now and focus on continuing to encourage vaccination through positive public health messages.”

Worth reading in full.

Why It’s Not All About the Football

Some people are suggesting that the recent surges and drop-offs in Covid infections in England and Scotland can be pinned on the football. The idea is that infections rose as fans mixed during the Euro 2020 championship and declined once Scotland was eliminated and England lost in the final.

It’s true that the summer surges in England and Scotland broadly coincided with when their teams were active in the tournament. Scotland’s new daily infections dropped off a few days after its exit on June 22nd, and England’s a few days after their loss to Italy on July 11th. Also, the male to female ratio of new infections briefly went up during the tournament.

However, that’s about where the coincidences end. The fact that the decline has continued for weeks in Scotland suggests it’s not a short term effect.

Perhaps more important, though, is the different shape of the curves in the two countries during June when both teams were still in the competition.

Peak of the Delta Surge Elusive for England, While Scotland’s Decline Continues

It appears that the anticipated peak of the current surge in England has not yet arrived, and the recent slowdowns may have been temporary.

U.K. positive Covid tests by date reported

As of today, ZOE data is now beginning to show the uptick in infections that Government data has shown over the past week, reversing what had appeared to be (including to ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector) the early signs of a declining trend.