Yesterday’s announcement of 21k new Covid infections shows the rate of increase in infections continuing to fall as a result of lockdown. What scientists will be intensely focussed on is whether the vaccination programme in itself, as well as reducing the risk of severe illness , also reduces transmission. There are, I understand , some positive signs but this will need proper analysis before any conclusion can be reached.
As a result of the fall in infection rates we have seen a slowing of new cases into the NHS. This was absolutely critical and was why the lockdown was necessary.
Hospitalisations locally have plateaued. I have been grateful for Hospital updates and all are similar - and in line with the national picture. Worthing Hospital this week saw a reduction from 20 to 11 Covid patients in Intensive Care. East Surrey ICU is full (29 beds - a multiple of the number operated pre Covid), another 24 patients are in a specialist respiratory ward amid the 230 Covid cases currently being treated by the hospital. Just as all our local hospitals took patients from hospitals in Kent and East Sussex when the Kent variant placed huge pressure on their local NHS, some local residents have been transferred out of local hospitals to receive treatment elsewhere in the NHS. They will be repatriated as soon as possible and it is hoped this will be underway soon.
Armed Forces Doctors and Nurses have been hugely committed to the NHS throughout the pandemic. However recently, at the request of the NHS, the MOD have also provided “GD” (general duties) troops to help on the wards (and troops locally helping the Ambulance service through SECAMB). The troops would be the first to say that they are hugely aware of for how long and how intensely the NHS teams have battled this disease and that what they can add is limited. However they will do everything they can in support and it was really uplifting to hear what a positive boost to morale it has been at East Surrey having a few new (and very willing) people to help out.
While numbers in hospital are stabilising the numbers are still very high. Likewise, while it is falling, there remains a large number of hospital staff off sick or self-isolating (around 500 currently in East Surrey).
Sadly there will be more deaths to add to the dreadful toll and while infection rates are falling they remain very high. No one can relax. We are still a while away from restrictions being lifted. When they are it will be gradual and schools will be the first priority.
Vaccine Roll Out (National)
Yesterday, remarkably, just under 600,000 people received a first vaccine dose meaning just under 9m have been vaccinated in the UK.
Two new vaccines have successfully concluded trials and are into the MHRA for approval (including Novavax which intends to manufacture in Stockton)
Vaccine Roll Out (Local)
While nationally 80 per cent of over 80s have been vaccinated the proportion is higher locally. Similarly while 40 per cent of 70-80s have already been inoculated across West Sussex numbers are again higher locally due to the great efficiency of our local teams.
If you are housebound and over 70 (or clinically extremely vulnerable) you will receive a call and a home visit for inoculations. A great many patients who ordinarily are not able to get to the surgery have managed to make it to their local vaccine centre which has been a huge boost to the teams and has been much appreciated - but visits to the housebound will take place as needed. These will be taking place right through to mid February.
The Crawley Regional Vaccine centre is expected to open this week to compliment Brighton and Epsom. You will be called (or receive an email/text) offering you an appointment at a local GP-run vaccine centre AND you will receive a letter offering you the opportunity to book on-line or by telephone into a regional centre. You have a choice but please don’t double book! Teams have “standby lists” but it’s very important every single vaccine is used.
If attending the Brighton centre please arrive no more than 5 minutes before your appointment everything is running like clockwork and turning up early while well intentioned makes life harder for the teams!
For those who had their first dose several weeks ago and are awaiting their second this is absolutely under control. The teams are absolutely focussed on it and you will be contacted just like the first time around.
There is growing confidence that the hugely ambitious target of inoculating the four highest risk groups by mid February is achievable - but naturally this continues to rely on the ongoing supply of vaccine.