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January 28, 2021

Covid-19 in the UK

Opinion

January 28, 2021

The number of people in the UK who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 97,936 (as of January 24), and will pass 100,000 in a few days. There has been an increase of 610 in the death toll over 24 hours. The real figures for the daily death toll are certainly higher, as indicated by Office for National Statistics records.

Adjusted for population size, the US equivalent of the UK’s death toll would be 588,000 – on January 21 the US death toll stood at 417,211. The total number of positive tests in the UK since the pandemic began is 3,617,459.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the new Covid variants now emerging may be associated with a higher mortality rate. There are 77 known cases of the South African variant in the UK, and at least 9 cases of the Brazilian variant.

Vallance said that for a man in their 60s, the average risk from the old strain of the virus was that for 1000 people who got infected, roughly 10 can be expected to die – however, with the new variants it is estimated it might be 13 or 14. The new variants are also estimated to be 70 percent more transmissible.

Vallance went on to say that the new variants may be less susceptible to the vaccines now being used, though he cautioned that the evidence for this is still being awaited.

The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, said there were signs Covid-19 cases were falling, and that hospitalizations in parts of England were beginning to ‘flatline’. However, he said it will take weeks for the death rate to start falling.

The latest reports (January 21) are of 37,899 people in hospital with Covid-19. There was a time when 20,000 – perhaps 25,000 at the outer limit – was mentioned as the maximum-capacity figure for the NHS. The UK has been above that figure for weeks. The numbers being hospitalized now are 78 percent higher than at the peak of the first wave.

An important consideration here is that the UK entered the pandemic with fewer staffed, funded ICU beds compared with other developed countries. Germany has 29 ICU beds per 100,000 population, the US around 25, the UK 6.6.

Hospital capacity has been increased by a combination of cancelling non-Covid operations and treatments, and making already exhausted staff work overtime.

According to The Guardian, adapted single-decker London buses, with seats removed and oxygen onboard, have been turned into ambulances to ease the strain caused by the pandemic.

Excerpted: ‘The UK’s Pandemic Gets Worse’

Counterpunch.org