Covid-19: Concern over June unlocking amid hospital pressure

Hospitals in England are calling for an informed debate over ending coronavirus restrictions as they face increasing pressures from non-Covid patients.

NHS Providers said there has been no rapid spike in coronavirus admissions but hospitals are dealing with more urgent care cases and a large backlog.

It comes as Labour warned “mistakes are being repeated” ahead of the 21 June unlocking date.

Meanwhile, ministers hailed progress in vaccinating 53% of 30 to 39-year-olds.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospital trusts believe they are seeing an influx of patients who put off treatment in the pandemic and now require more complex care and longer stays.

They are also “going full pelt” to tackle backlogs and waiting lists, with full wards and little space for any significant increase in Covid patients, he said.

He called for a “much better quality of debate” on the trade-offs involved in ending coronavirus restrictions as planned on 21 June.

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Writing in the Observer, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said government “incompetence” is putting the end of restrictions at risk, after “weak, slow decisions” allowed the B.1.617.2 variant first discovered in India to gain a foothold in several UK hotspots.

Boris Johnson and ministers are too distracted by “covering their own backs” and “civil war” following accusations by former adviser Dominic Cummings, Sir Keir said.

He said Mr Johnson’s refusal to take action before the second wave led to “avoidable and unforgivable” deaths and “mistakes were being repeated” as cases begin to rise again.

“Vaccines are saving lives, are safe, effective and our way out of this
devastating global pandemic.”

‘Encouraging’ vaccine effectiveness

The prime minister has previously denied that people died needlessly, saying the government faced “incredibly difficult” decisions but always aimed to protect lives.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was making “fantastic progress” in vaccination, with 53% of 30 to 39-year-olds having had their first dose in just over two weeks.

He said the research on the vaccine’s effectiveness against variants is also “encouraging”. “Vaccines are saving lives, are safe, effective and our way out of this devastating global pandemic,” he said.

On Friday it was revealed the Duchess of Cambridge is among the 39 million people in the UK who have now received at least one jab.


The Duchess of Cambridge getting the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine

image copyrightKensington Palace

It means nearly three-quarters of the adult population of have their first dose, while almost 25 million people have received their second dose.

Catherine, 39, is the latest senior royal to share publicly that she has had the vaccine, with her husband getting his first dose earlier this month.

Her father-in-law, the Prince of Wales, and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, were given their coronavirus jabs in February. The Queen received hers in January.

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