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  • Writer's pictureRichard Cree

Normal

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

30th January 2022

UK COVID Deaths – Daily 85 / Daily average 262

Total UK COVID Deaths within 28 days – 155,698

Total UK Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate – 176,813 (up to 14 Jan)

James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 761

All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 132

James Cook Critical Care

COVID cases – 3 (2 ventilated)

Non-COVID cases – 47 (25 ventilated)


On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency announced that England’s R number is currently estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9. This is the first time that it has convincingly fallen below 1 since November and implies that the pandemic is shrinking. The number of new infections is decreasing by between 6% and 2% each day,


This is reassuring, especially given the Government’s decision on Thursday to remove all Plan B restrictions that were introduced at the beginning of December. There had been some earlier changes last week when the restrictions on working from home and the requirement for facemasks in classrooms were lifted but we are now officially back to Plan A. There is now no longer a legal requirement for facemasks to be worn or for venues to ask for a COVID pass. The Government will also soon lift the requirement for vaccinated travellers to take a COVID test when they enter the UK from a green list country. For many, it feels that life is back to normal.


The number of COVID patients in the hospital continues to slowly decrease. We are now down to four COVID wards and, even better, we have been able to close our COVID ICU for the first time since July. Far fewer COVID patients are becoming unwell enough to need Intensive Care and a number of our existing patients have recovered and left for the ward. As a result, we have been able to accommodate the few remaining COVID patients in our isolation rooms. It’s a welcome return to business as usual and is an important step on our road to recovery.

Of course, there are still many people who are becoming infected or re-infected with Omicron. Despite this, the number being admitted to hospital is continuing to slowly fall and it is this fact that the Government is using to justify the return to normal. After all, restrictions were put in place to prevent the health service becoming overwhelmed. Clearly, this is no longer a threat.


Of course, another reason for restrictions was to protect the elderly and vulnerable who, even with timely medical care, stood a high chance of dying following infection with COVID-19. However, now everyone has been offered vaccination, it has become harder to justify society-wide restrictions in order to prevent infections in this vulnerable group. The emerging narrative is one of ‘personal responsibility’ and the Government seems to be leaving people to manage their own risk.


How you feel about this depends on many different factors – your political leaning, your sense of altruism, your age, whether you or family members have underlying health problems, whether you ‘believe’ in COVID, and how much you hate wearing facemasks. I do understand those who believe that ‘enough is enough’ and that we must ‘learn to live with it’ and I don’t think you would find many people who would advocate ongoing restrictions in order to protect the unvaccinated. That being said, I do have a great deal of sympathy for those who have medical conditions that put them at a high risk of serious illness. Whilst the case rate remains high, much of society remains closed to them and visits to places they cannot avoid, such as their GP surgery or hospital, will still be perceived as risky.


How long it will take for the number of infections to fall to a level where such people can lower their guard is unclear at the moment. It may still be a while before life returns to normal for them. The rise in cases and admissions that occurred over the Christmas and New Year period has now come to an end. The return to Plan A will mean that we can expect more day-to-day social-mixing of the population. As a result, infection rates may now fall more slowly than expected. Nevertheless, the number of people being admitted to hospital continues to slowly decrease and fewer and fewer people are requiring Intensive Care treatment. These are the statistics that we all should find reassuring.



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16 Comments


peter.nms
Feb 02, 2022

Hi Richard,


Thank you for the update, as has always been the case, your real time analysis has been much appreciated.


Lynn's death from Covid Pneumonitis is obviously very raw so I shall refrain from my usual lengthy comments.


Thank you to everyone still fire fighting Covid and my heart goes out to everyone suffering a loss or someone currently very ill whether it's Covid or not.


Thank you Richard for your amazing support on your last blog.


Best wishes to all


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Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Feb 07, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Peter. That is not my department but I’m sure my cardiology colleagues will look after him well! All the best, Richard

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Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Jan 31, 2022

Hi Jon I agree – it will be a while before Omicron is well and truly subdued. I will also continue to wear a facemask. As you say, it’s hardly the end of the world. The decision to abandon restrictions was entirely political – Boris needed to project some heady optimism in order to keep the rest of his party from unseating him. However, it’s far from a ludicrous decision – hospitals are currently well-placed to be able to offer treatment to anyone who needs it and compliance with restrictions was fading fast. I believe facemasks should have remained in place in public areas until infections decreased but an end to working from home (if you are not vulnerable) is not…

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irommanjon
Jan 31, 2022

Thank you Richard for your update, which is as valuable as ever.


Of course there are many differing personal views. But the proportion of infected people remains high. With an R number of 0.9 - or even (at the most optimistic) 0.7 - it will take a long time for the proportion of infected people to reduce to low levels. And I suspect these R levels reflect the position before the latest final relaxations.


Meanwhile the high level of infections increases the opportunites for the virus to mutate further to a more serious version.


From my perspective keeping the few remaining restricitons for a little longer would have been a better policy decision. No-one enjoys wearing a facemask but for…


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jeanmehrtens
Jan 31, 2022

As we are discovering in Australia even the vaccinated people die - we suddenly seem to be able to tolerate “high” (to us) daily death rates; at least in our political classes. Personal responsibility really means personal risk assessment and evaluation.

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Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Feb 01, 2022
Replying to

I will be amazed if the decision to sack unvaccinated NHS workers goes ahead. The government will seek to delay it and let the issue evaporate. There’s just not the political will to carry it forward any more. Cheers, Richard

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