Although the UK has pioneered the Covid-19 vaccination and has already applied the most vaccines in Europe, the National Health System (NHS) “faces the most serious battle in its history “and could lose the ability to respond to emergencies in the coming days,” the country’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Sunday.
This statement was reinforced by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock in interviews with UK televisions. In a statement, Whitty said conditions were already severe last Monday (4), when the four British medical chiefs recommended raising the national alert level to the maximum. Since then, however, the situation has deteriorated further.
“In some parts of the country the NHS is currently facing the most dangerous situation that can be remembered. If the virus continues on its current trajectory, a lot of hospitals will be in real trouble, and very soon, ”Whitty said.
The UK has broken successive records of new cases and deaths from Covid-19 over the past month, with the expansion of a new variant of Sars-Cov-2 more contagious than previous ones. The variant, which began to circulate at the end of last year, according to scientists, is already widespread in the country.
In the past 24 hours, England has recorded 59,937 new cases and 1,035 deaths. Almost 30,000 people are hospitalized in the country. In London, the number of hospitalized patients is 35% higher than that recorded at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in April, which led the mayor of the English capital, Sadiq Khan, to declare a “serious incident” – kind of state of emergency.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson decreed strict containment last Monday, but Khan wants the restrictions to be tightened, banning, for example, the opening of churches and temples.
In his statement, the English medical chief warned that “the times of people waiting for care will continue to increase to potentially dangerous levels, and hospitals will no longer have space to receive redirected emergencies via regional networks “. health per patient, which is already strained, will become unacceptable. “
On the Internet, doctors and nurses report a situation of desperation in English hospitals. “We have several patients who are not ‘fit’ for intensive care in the current climate. Before Covid, they probably had a chance, but not now. When you think that these patients have suffered enough and will probably never get over it, you start talking about how to make them comfortable, ”described Jane Smith (pseudonym of an NHS doctor) in one of these statements.
She says that, in part, hospitals need emergency beds for patients with better chances because the ICUs are full. “We also think it is cruel to keep these people in pain when their chances of survival are minimal. It’s hard to know which one is the real motivation, ”she said.
When recounting one of his days on duty, Smith says that before he even reaches his locker, a nurse asks for help with a patient who refuses to put on the mask. “He tells me he’s tired of fighting and wants to be alone.” The patient she is trying to save is 61 years old and occupies a room with five other men, aged between 30 and 60 and a few years old.
In another room, Smith says, she tries to “find out if a patient of mine isn’t answering my questions because she’s delusional, doesn’t speak English, or is depressed.” “I imagine it’s the last one; her file says her husband died just before New Years, from Covid.
For Smith, one of the most difficult times of the day is calling loved ones. “I hardly ever have good news. “Your father is currently enjoying the maximum support we can offer, and we don’t know if he will survive today,” nothing positive can come of these words. Hearing people cry on the other side, knowing that I am bringing news of the worst day of their lives, is heartbreaking.
NHS officials “are doing their best and working amazingly, but even they have limits,” England’s chief medical officer said. Whitty called on citizens to find a “collective force” to stay home. “Every unnecessary interaction you have can be part of a chain of transmission that has a vulnerable person at the end.”
The British government is trying to impose maximum force on the vaccination program launched in December, to contain the number of hospitalizations and deaths. The UK has already authorized three vaccines (from Pfizer, Oxford and Moderna) and, according to Hancock, the country is vaccinating 200,000 people a day.
The objective is to increase the number of vaccination posts, to quickly reach 2 million people vaccinated per week. According to the minister, this is the number of those who have already taken the first dose since the start of the program, when only the Pfizer vaccine had been approved for use. Vaccines are being applied today in 1,000 general practices, 223 hospitals and 7 power centers, with plans to reach 50 power centers and to incorporate 200 pharmacies into the vaccination network.
The government has already pledged to immunize by the middle of next month all over 70s, health professionals and clinically vulnerable (14 million people, or about a fifth of the population).
This Sunday, Hancock said he hoped that, even in the first half of the year, everyone over the age of 50 received at least the first dose; by the end of the year, it would have reached all adults.
Despite fears that the variants are less susceptible to vaccines, Peter Horby, chairman of Nervtag, the government’s advisory committee, said in an interview with UK televisions earlier this Sunday that the data available so far is “encouraging” that vaccines will be effective.
In Ireland, health officials have also issued warnings that hospitals are reaching capacity limits. The number of hospitalizations has quadrupled in the past two weeks and, according to health service chief Paul Reid, this week is expected to double the peak of 2020.
The doctor, however, said the country was only interrupting elective procedures and maintaining care for urgent cases, cancer and heart problems.