Health

Highest daily infections in THREE MONTHS: Covid cases soar by 30% to 45,140 as winter draws in


Britain’s Covid outbreak grew again today as the number of daily cases soared by 30 per cent in the past seven days to 45,140 – the highest total since July.

Meanwhile, deaths rose by 50 per cent to 57 in the space of a week. 

Official figures published by the Department for Health this afternoon also show that hospitalisations spiked by 12 per cent to 915 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for. It was the highest daily admissions since September 15, when they reached 946.

It comes amid reports that Ministers are planning to unveil walk-in vaccine clinics for schoolchildren aged 12 to 15 within weeks in an effort to speed up the jabs rollout, as concerns grow that the Government’s vaccination programme in schools has been too slow. Sources also claim the new clinics are an attempt to keep anti-vaxxers away from the school gates. 

Meanwhile, yesterday it emerged the sister company of the under-fire lab that wrongly told 43,000 they were Covid-free is being probed because of travel test complaints.

Testing operations at Immensa Health Clinic Ltd’s laboratory in Wolverhampton have been suspended because of the faulty tests. And it has been revealed its sister company Dante Labs is now also being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over concerns it may be treating customers unfairly. 

This included by not delivering PCR tests and results on time or at all, failing to respond to complaints or provide proper customer service, refusing or delaying refunds when requested and using terms and conditions which may unfairly limit consumers’ rights.  A negative PCR means people will not have needed to isolate and could potentially have spread the infection to many other people.  

Office for National Statistics figures showed that Covid cases in England are now at their highest level since January, with one in 60 people infected on any given day last week. The ONS estimated 890,000 people in England – 1.63 per cent of the population – had the virus on October 9, up 13.2 per cent on the previous weekly figure. 

Infections have not been as high since the country began to recover from the darkest days of the second wave in mid-January, when more than  one million people were thought to be carrying the virus. Cases now appear to be rising in all cohorts, apart from those aged 35 to 49, where the ONS warned the trend is uncertain. But the latest hike has been fuelled by infections among pupils, with one in 12 youngsters aged 11 to 16 infected. 

Top scientists have repeatedly warned of a fourth wave this winter, prompted by the return of pupils to classrooms and office workers, as well as the colder weather and darker evenings driving people to socialise inside where the virus finds it easier to spread.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty claimed this winter will be ‘exceptionally difficult’ for the NHS, even if there is not a surge of infections. He warned the health service faces tough months ahead due to a resurgence of flu and other seasonal viruses.

Though Transport Secretary Grant Shapps dismissed introducing another lockdown at Christmas, Downing Street has plans in place to bring back restrictions if the roll-out of booster vaccines and jabs to over-12s fail to curb the impact of Covid on hospitals. And Ministers have previously warned they could not rule out another lockdown as a last resort.   

Britain's Covid outbreak grew again today as the number of daily cases soared by 30 per cent in the past seven days to 45,140, but deaths plummeted by nearly two-thirds from 148 to 57 in the space of a week. Official figures published by the Department for Health this afternoon also show that hospitalisations spiked by 12 per cent to 915 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for. It was the highest daily admissions since September 15, when they reached 946

Britain’s Covid outbreak grew again today as the number of daily cases soared by 30 per cent in the past seven days to 45,140, but deaths plummeted by nearly two-thirds from 148 to 57 in the space of a week. Official figures published by the Department for Health this afternoon also show that hospitalisations spiked by 12 per cent to 915 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for. It was the highest daily admissions since September 15, when they reached 946

Sister company of under-fire lab that wrongly told up to 45,000 people they didn’t have Covid is probed over PCR travel test complaints 

The sister company of the under-fire lab that wrongly told 43,000 they were Covid-free is being probed because of travel test complaints.

Testing operations at Immensa Health Clinic Ltd’s laboratory in Wolverhampton have been suspended because of the faulty tests.

And it has been revealed its sister company Dante Labs is now also being investigated by the Competion and Markets Authority (CMA) over concerns it may be treating customers unfairly.

This included by not delivering PCR tests and results on time or at all, failing to respond to complaints or provide proper customer service, refusing or delaying refunds when requested and using terms and conditions which may unfairly limit consumers’ rights.

The CSA said Dante was ‘a popular provider of PCR travel tests in the UK this summer’.

A negative PCR means people will not have needed to isolate and could potentially have spread the infection to many other people.

The errors at Immensa relate to test results given to people between September 8 and October 12, mainly in the South West of England, but with some cases in the South East and Wales.

Last night, there were fresh calls to speed up the vaccination of teenagers after an analysis of official figures by The Mail on Sunday found almost half of new Covid cases in England are now in the under-20s. When schools went back early last month, 33 per cent of new cases were in that age group. But by the second week of this month, the proportion had grown to 46 per cent. 

Teenagers now make up the lion’s share of infections in the under-20s. Because cases have been rising, in absolute terms the number of new infections in under-20s is not far off having doubled since early September, rising from about 9,000 to almost 15,500 a day.

The errors at Immensa relate to test results given to people between September 8 and October 12, mainly in the South West of England, but with some cases in the South East and Wales.

There are no technical issues with test kits themselves and people should continue to test as normal, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said. It said a full investigation is being carried out into why and how incorrect results were given.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of UKHSA, told the BBC it was likely only a few thousand of the 43,000 affected were still infectious.

She added that it was ‘not clear yet’ what went wrong in the private laboratory, adding that it was ‘accredited to all of the appropriate standards’.

NHS Test and Trace estimates that around 400,000 samples have been processed through the lab, but new samples are now being redirected to other labs.

Test and Trace is contacting people who could still be infectious to advise them to take another test, while close contacts who are symptomatic will also be advised to take a test, as is already recommended.

PCR tests can detect Covid several weeks after infection. If a person has a positive lateral flow result, they are told to have a follow-up PCR to confirm the finding.

Dr Will Welfare, public health incident director at UKHSA, said: ‘We have recently seen a rising number of positive LFD (lateral flow) results subsequently testing negative on PCR.

‘As a result of our investigation, we are working with NHS Test and Trace and the company to determine the laboratory technical issues which have led to inaccurate PCR results being issued to people.

‘We have immediately suspended testing at this laboratory while we continue the investigation.

‘There is no evidence of any faults with LFD or PCR test kits themselves and the public should remain confident in using them and in other laboratory services currently provided.

Heathrow Airport’s ‘outrageous’ price hikes to airlines ‘could put £100 on the price of a family break’, aviation boss warns 

The cost of a family summer holiday could soar by up to £100 next year due to Heathrow airport’s ‘outrageous’ price hikes, former British Airways boss Willie Walsh warned last night.

Heathrow, which is owned by a consortium of billionaire investors, wants to increase the charges airlines pay to use the airport by more than 90 per cent from January – from £19.36 to £37.63.

Airlines add these charges to ticket prices, meaning a family of five could pay almost £100 more for flights from Heathrow if the proposal gets the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority regulator in the coming days.

Mr Walsh accused Heathrow of acting like a ‘greedy monopoly’ and said its wealthy shareholders must ‘step up’ to provide investment after years of generous dividend payouts.

‘If you get a positive LFD test, it’s important to make sure that you then get a follow-up PCR test to confirm you have Covid-19.

‘If you have symptoms of Covid, self-isolate and take a PCR test.’

The Government awarded Immensa a £119 million contract in October 2020 to urgently ‘develop volume for PCR testing for Covid in line with test and trace requirements’, the contract shows.

The contract did not go to tender under rules allowing urgent responses to the pandemic.

A further £50million was awarded to Immensa by the Government in a contract last September.

Immensa was incorporated as a company in the UK in May 2020.

According to the Immensa website, the firm was new to Covid testing. It said: ‘In 2020, we adapted and evolved into Covid testing, taking advantage of our laboratory network, scientific expertise, and digital systems to deliver world-leading Covid-19 testing solutions.’

Andrea Riposati, chief executive of Immensa, said: ‘We are fully collaborating with UKHSA on this matter.

‘Quality is paramount for us. We have proudly analysed more than 2.5 million samples for NHS Test and Trace, working closely with the great teams at the Department for Health and UKHSA.

‘We do not wish this matter or anything else to tarnish the amazing work done by the UK in this pandemic.’

Among the testing sites affected are Newbury Showground in Berkshire.

A man from nearby Swindon said his confidence in the accuracy of his recent Covid test result has been impacted by the issue at the Immensa laboratory.

Tim Barton, 48, said he and his family received positive lateral flow tests after falling ill with coronavirus symptoms earlier this month but their PCR tests came back negative.

The client relationship director said: ‘My son, daughter and myself all had positive (lateral flow tests) – we then had PCR tests done at the test site in Swindon all of which came back negative.

‘This will undoubtedly impact people’s confidence in the accuracy of these types of tests… they could have cost lives.’

 

Map shows: The week-on-week percentage change in positive tests in regions across England

Map shows: The week-on-week percentage change in positive tests in regions across England

NHS waiting list for routine ops hits ANOTHER high with 5.72MILLION people in England stuck in queue — as record 5,000 A&E patients waited 12 or more hours to be seen last month 

The NHS waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England has hit another record high, official data revealed today as hospital bosses warned the Covid backlog will not be cleared for another five years.

A total of 5.7million people were waiting for elective surgery at the end of August 2021, including almost 10,000 patients who have been in the queue for two years, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

This is the highest number since official records began in August 2007 and the tenth time the milestone has been broken during the pandemic.

Prior to the Covid crisis, the waiting list stood at around 4.45million. It includes people waiting for operations like knee, hip and joint replacements, as well as cataracts surgery.

The figures also show 5,000 people waited 12 or more hours in A&E before being seen by a doctor in September, which was also the highest number on record.

Waiting lists spiralled after coronavirus forced hospitals to cancel routine operations and turn over entire wards to patients suffering from the disease at the start of the crisis last spring. Social distancing and other Covid precautions have made it more difficult to chip away at the backlog.

But the record-breaking figures come before the busiest time of the year for hospitals, with health bosses fearing the UK will be hit with a double-whammy of rising Covid case numbers and flu this winter.

Meanwhile, in Wales, about 4,000 people may have been affected from testing sites in the Gwent and Cwm Taf Morgannwg areas.

Dr Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist at the University of Bath, said: ‘We now know 43,000 people are believed to have been given false negatives, but this doesn’t even come near to the cost of the mistake.

‘Many of these people will have been forced into school or work, potentially infecting others. This could be part of the reason behind some of the recent rises we’ve seen.’

According to data released on Saturday, more than 3.3 million booster jabs have been administered in England. Across the UK, 49.4 million people have had their first Covid jab – the equivalent of 85.9 per cent of the over-12s. More than 45.3 million have had two doses.

Some 43,423 daily cases of Covid were recorded yesterday, up by 12.8 per cent over seven days, and there were 148 deaths within 28 days of a positive test – a 5.4 per cent rise in a week. 

Care home providers however have raised concerns that the rollout of booster jabs to staff has been too slow. One provider said employees who happily took the first two jabs are refusing the top-up one.

They said one reason is because staff ‘don’t want to have to do three to four jabs a year’ but added that the nature of the rollout is also not driving demand.

‘Care homes are not as involved in encouraging staff because it is not compulsory,’ they said. ‘They are just sending the link [to staff] to sign up.’

The Department of Health last night declined to release figures on how many care home staff had taken up the booster jab.  

It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic to be brought forward in the wake of a scathing report that laid bare a string of failures ministers made amid the first Covid outbreak.

The first major probe concluded that thousands of care home residents died needlessly in the pandemic, and that ministers were blinded by ‘groupthink’ among scientific advisers who wrongly wanted to manage the spread of the virus, rather than suppress it.

The dossier also claimed that Downing Street’s early decisions on lockdowns and social distancing rank as ‘one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced’. 

Speaking on a visit to a lorry driver training centre near Oldham, Labour’s leader said: ‘I think the least the PM could do is address the families, apologise, and bring forward the public inquiry just as quickly as possible.’

Sir Keir added: ‘The PM should take responsibility because the responsibility is his, and he should apologise. But I’d like to just start by acknowledging just how difficult a day this will be for the bereaved families learning what they will learn in this report, which is a damning indictment of the Government and the flaws and errors and failures of the Government running down the NHS before the pandemic, being far too slow to respond, with the price being paid by those bereaved families, chaotic track and trace.’

Meanwhile, one of the Government’s own ministers refused to apologise eleven times for the mistakes that had led to thousands of deaths in Britain.

Stephen Barclay, who replaced Michael Gove as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Number 10’s reshuffle last month, was grilled about the report and repeatedly given the opportunity to say sorry by Sky News presenter Kay Burley, but he instead dodged the chance. He even admitted he had not yet read the 151-page report.

Boris Johnson has promised a formal inquiry into the Government’s response to the pandemic will start in Spring 2022 but an exact date has yet to be set. When he announced the probe, he insisted key players would be put ‘under the microscope’. 

Labour had originally called for the inquiry to begin in June this year, in line with Number 10’s lifting of virus restrictions. There are currently virtually no Covid curbs on daily life in England.  

The report, published by the health and science committees at the House of Commons, is the first to shine a light on the catalogue of failures made at the top of Government. It castigated the ‘chaotic’ performance of the £37billion test and trace system. 

Families of coronavirus victims called report ‘laughable’, with one campaigner pointing out that it ‘barely mentions the over 150,000 bereaved families’. 



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