Troops Sent to Aid London NHS, New Case World Record, Argentine Figures, Guyana Urges Obey Rules, Mexico Virus Deaths, World Stats

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Covid: Armed Forces send 200 personnel to support the NHS in London

Armed Forces personnel enter the Royal London Hospital

The Armed Forces have sent 200 personnel into NHS hospitals across London to plug staff shortages.

The Ministry of Defence will provide 40 defence medics and 160 general duty personnel for the next three weeks.

Hospitals in London have been hit hard by staff absences, with thousands off sick or isolating as the Omicron variant surged through the capital.

Earlier this week, the PM said he hoped England could “ride out” the latest wave without further restrictions.

Pressure on London hospitals has increased over the past month, with 4,000 patients currently in hospital with Covid compared with 1,100 in early December.

The Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, Patricia Marquis, said the deployment showed the government could not deny there was a “staffing crisis” in the NHS.

“The prime minister and others can no longer be dismissive of questions about the ability of NHS staff to deliver safe care,” she said.

As of Thursday afternoon, 17 hospital trusts in England were experiencing critical incidents – about one in eight of the total.

A critical incident is declared when a trust is worried it might not be able to provide core priority services, such as emergency care. It means they can get extra help and draft staff in from other duties.

In London, there are 236 patients on ventilators – compared with 190 last month – and daily admissions are about four times higher than the beginning of December.

Vaccination rates in the capital are also running behind the UK as a whole, with 69% having had a first dose, 63% a second and 40% a booster jab.

Across the UK, 90% have had their first jab, 83% have had a second, and 61% a booster.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid urged people to get their vaccinations to help cut the pressure on the NHS, as he welcomed support from the military.

He said: “Once again they are stepping up to assist NHS workers who are working round the clock across the capital, helping the health service through this difficult winter period where the need is greatest.

“The most important thing you can do is get boosted now to protect your loved ones and communities from Covid-19.

Army medics and support staff have been used to support health services throughout the pandemic – they were deployed to work in Northern Ireland’s hospitals in September and were also needed in London this time last year.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Armed Forces would again be working “hand-in-hand” with NHS staff “to protect the nation from Covid-19”.

He added: “They have shown their worth time and again throughout this pandemic, whether driving ambulances, administering vaccines or supporting patients in hospital and they should be proud of their contribution to this truly national effort.”

There are 40 teams of five, with one medic and four general duties personnel, who have started work this week and will be allocated according to need.

Medics will work with patients, whereas the soldiers will be working on maintaining stocks, checking in patients on arrival, and conducting basic checks.

Paramedics in the South Central Ambulance Service will also be bolstered with 32 military co-responders, who are expected to stay with them until the end of March.

Hospital wardImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

About 10% of staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust are off sick

Jane Clegg, the regional chief nurse for the NHS in London, said: “We are thankful for the support of the armed forces alongside thousands of NHS staff, as they respond to the increased demands brought by Covid – ensuring continued high quality care and treatment for the many Londoners being looked after by the NHS this winter.”

Across the UK there are about 1,800 armed forces personnel supporting the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic, made up of regulars and reservists from the Army, Navy and the RAF.

More than 400 military paramedics are assisting ambulance trusts, with 313 in the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust and 96 in the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Another 1,000 are working on the vaccine booster programme, with 730 in England, 221 in Scotland and 98 in Wales.


World record set for confirmed COVID cases


© Associated Press

The world set a record last week for confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 9.5 million new cases reported in a seven-day period, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The number of confirmed cases between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 was 71 percent higher than the previous seven-day period, which tallied around 5 million new cases.

Cases for months ranged between 3 million to 5 million per week, but the highly transmissible omicron variant, first detected in November, has led to a spike in global cases.

While the number of cases has increased, deaths fell in the latest reporting week compared to the prior seven-day period.

More than 41,000 deaths from COVID-19 were reported last week, down from more than 44,000 in the previous week, the WHO found.

While preliminary studies have found omicron to be less severe than the delta variant, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has cautioned nations to not take omicron lightly.


Argentina breaks COVID-19 case record as daily infections near 100,000

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Argentina broke its record for COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, approaching 100,000 daily cases as it faces a third wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

But the record of 95,159 officially confirmed cases, coming in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday season with tourist centers full of travelers, has not translated into a similar exponential rise in COVID-related deaths, which totaled 52.

“We do not have a strong impact on intensive therapy units and less in terms of deaths,” the chief of staff of the Ministry of Health, Sonia Tarragona, told local radio station Urbana Play. “The cases are mild or moderate and they are not putting stress on the health system.”

Argentina accelerated its vaccination campaign in recent months, which started with the Sputnik V vaccine, then added AstraZeneca and Sinopharm and, later, CanSino, Pfizer and Moderna.

Tarragona said she does not know “what the ceiling for infections is going to be,” but some experts believe the true number among the country’s 45 million population is already significant.

“Today in Argentina we could be quietly at around 150,000 or 200,000 cases of new infections per day,” biochemist Jorge Geffner told Reuters TV.

He estimated that the infection peak could come in mid-January.

Neighboring Brazil had 27,267 new daily cases and 129 deaths, the government said on Wednesday. read more

Reporting by Agustin Geist and Lucila Sigal; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by John Stonestreet and Mark Porter


Guyana Government Urges Adherence to COVID Protocols

The Guyana government urged the population to get vaccinated and adhere to the protocols put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the country recorded a significant increase in new cases and the union representing teachers called for the immediate closure of schools across the country.

President Irfaan Ali, speaking at an emergency virtual news conference, called on nationals to get vaccinated, as well as adhere to a mandatory mask-wearing amid suspicions that the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is in Guyana.

“It is still critical that while you are still making up your mind whether you will get vaccinated that you adhere to a self-imposition of mandatory mask wear to minimize the viral load or your exposure,” Ali said.

Ali, who was flanked by Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony and other officials, reiterated that vaccination remains the best option against contracting the virus or becoming severely ill.

“Vaccination with booster minimizes the impact of the new variant. Some describe (the symptoms) as being mild, but those who are not vaccinated need to take additional precautions for themselves and families.”

Ali said that while there is a high positivity ratio, there has been no steep increase in hospitalization, adding “we don’t have control over the variant and how it will operate but we have control over our own options”.

President Ali said his government was keen on keeping public services functional while managing health facilities and personnel who are critical to the fight against COVID-19.

The Health Minister confirmed that 788 new cases of the virus had been recorded within the last 24hours, representing the highest number of new cases to ever be recorded in a single day, pushing the number of active cases in the country to over 2,500.

Dr. Anthony said the increase in new cases was expected as the country comes out of a busy holiday season.

“We are operating on the advice that it [Omicron] is here and we are taking action on that advice,” he said, adding “we have anticipated this, these numbers are going to double and we are seeing this happening right now”.

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has called for the immediate closure of schools, two days after students returned for the new academic year and for face-to-face learning.

In a statement, the GTU said based on its own assessment, 65 teachers and more than 40 students have tested positive for the virus and that while at least 15 schools have been forced to close their doors, many other schools have remained open although cases have been confirmed among staff and students.

The union said based on visits to schools, there are no social distancing guidelines being followed in many classrooms as students are seated close to each other and in many cases, two students are sharing one bench.

The union is demanding that schools be closed immediately to facilitate testing and sanitizing of the school environment. It said while it understands the challenges presented by online learning and that reopening schools for face-to-face is the preferred option,

“The rate at which persons are getting sick due to COVID 19 infections has to be addressed now. The only way to preserve the lives of our children, teachers, and their families is to suspend all face-to-face engagements in schools”, the union said.

During the news conference, President Ali said public schools will remain open.

Ali said of the estimated 200 health workers who are infected with the virus, 50 are doctors, 75 are nurses and 41 are technicians.

Medical Director of the Georgetown Public Hospital, Dr Fawcett Jeffrey said that seven of the 32 doctors of the obstetrics and gynecology department have been infected by the virus.



Mexico nears 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 as cases surge after holidays

3 minute read


A medical staff member checks symptoms of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient in the emergency room at Metropolitano Hospital in Monterrey, Mexico, January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

MEXICO CITY, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week – the fifth highest death toll worldwide – as infections rise after the holiday season, fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant and largely unrestricted tourism.

Infections have more than doubled to 20,000 during the last week when many tourists visited Mexico from the United States and Canada. Eleven of Mexico’s 32 states decided not to resume in-person school classes this week with cases climbing fast.

The arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant reversed a downturn in infections during the autumn, when the widespread application of vaccines provided relief.

Some Mexicans said people had dropped their guard as the holidays came.

“Since December, a lot of people started to go out and there are many who no longer wear face masks,” said Isauro Perez, a 53-year-old taxi driver in Mexico City. “If we don’t take care of ourselves, the government won’t take care of us.”

As of Wednesday, Mexico had registered 299,805 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a figure that is likely significantly below the real toll, officials say.

Separate government data showed there had been nearly 452,000 deaths “linked to” COVID-19 by mid-December, and lower testing has likely helped to understate the reach of the virus.

Mexico has the highest fatality rate – deaths per confirmed cases – among the 20 nations most affected by COVID-19 worldwide, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.

Laurie Ximenez-Fyvie, an expert on molecular genetics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said in the end, Mexico’s death toll would be the ultimate yardstick of how the government had performed in the pandemic.

So far, she argued, it risked suffering “absolute failure.”

According to figures from Our World in Data, a research group at Oxford University, in the week ending Jan. 1, Mexico was conducting just 0.12 coronavirus daily tests for every 1,000 inhabitants – down from a peak of 0.38 per day in mid-August.

Britain, by contrast, was doing 20.6 tests a day per 1,000 inhabitants as 2021 ended.

While parts of Europe and the United States have imposed added restrictions with the spread of Omicron, Mexico has so far resisted and tourists do not require negative tests to enter the country.

Videos of maskless travelers drinking alcohol and gathering close together while taking a charter flight to the Mexican beach destination of Cancun from Montreal in late December went viral, prompting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call for an investigation.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he said.

The surge of new cases could hit Mexico harder than some countries since it has a lower vaccination rate than the United States and much of Europe, health experts said.

Nationwide, only 56% of the population is fully vaccinated, in comparison to 62% in the United States and 81% in Spain.

But Mexicans have readily taken up vaccines, and 95% of adult residents of Mexico City are fully vaccinated.

However, the government has not rolled out its vaccination program to people below the age of 15, despite more children being hospitalized. More than one in four of Mexico’s population are aged 14 or below, World Bank data show.

Reporting by Diego Ore and Roberto Ramirez, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; editing by Grant McCool



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