Updated: Feb 1
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.