Some 3,500 Brits flew to Switzerland for a Christmas break just before the news of new variants of the virus were found both in the UK and South Africa. They promptly found themselves trapped requiring to self-isolate in Switzerland for 10 days rather than enjoy their planned skiing holiday. There had been a record 10,000 plus new cases over the 3 days of Christmas. Only about 12 British tourists of the original 420 remain in isolation at Verbier ski resort. It would seem that the rest fled the mandatory quarantine by making a mad dash for freedom, copying the Von Trapp family as, under-cover of darkness, they escaped over the mountains and have dispersed. There has been widespread condemnation of their behaviour in Switzerland and on social media.
In the USA some 1.1 million people were tested at Airports on Boxing day and about 616,000 on Christmas day, showing just how many people were travelling against the advice of Dr Anthony Fauci, the new Chief Medical Advisor in the US. He has warned that Christmas gatherings will cause a ‘surge on a surge’ of new cases which will bring a whole lot more trouble to the USA.
Here in the UK statistics have all but dried up now on the last day of the official holiday. Only the figure of new positive cases seems at all reliable. 41, 385 tests were positive, this is the highest daily figure since records began for this pandemic.
Deaths were recorded as 357, but then in the small print today we learn that figures from Scotland were not counted over the holiday period. This means the figures I have given to you in the last few days are under estimates. We might get more realistic figures tomorrow and the next day as normal working returns. Incredibly, given the size of the NHS crisis no one has collected data to be published over the holiday.
The work of the London Ambulance Service is something I still feel very proud of. The staff are on their knees trying to cope with this pressure. I spoke to my son last night who had been at work all day when supposed to be off. He was almost too tired to talk to me. The pinch point in the system is when an ambulance arrives at a hospital. Normally, on arrival the patient is off loaded into the department, a hand over of the details given to nursing staff. The ambulance equipment that has been used is cleaned, sanitized and returned to the ambulance. Disposables are replaced and the whole process usually can be done in 20-30 minutes. The crew can then report ready to respond to another call. At present the hospitals are not allowing patients to be off loaded if there is no bed or trolley to put them on and no staff to look after them. Routinely in some places this is taking hours, 6 hours not being unusual and I think one patient was in an ambulance at a hospital for 21 hours.
There is a finite number of ambulances available to respond and once they are all committed there is nowhere to go to get more. In my opinion hospital managers must accept that their refusal to accept patients needing help is untenable. These patients have already been reviewed in the Control room and then by the Crews themselves, that they actually need to be in hospital. The time wasters have already been weeded out.
My view is that the DH needs now to direct that hospitals should accept these patients and hold them in a suitable area. Out patients and halls are possible where staff pulled from some wards with suitable volunteers can look after them until they can be seen. It has always been the Ambulance service’s responsibility to respond to emergencies, apply any urgent lifesaving treatment and then deliver them to hospital for further definitive care. I accept hospitals are under pressure but they have much more space and staff to cope with say 20 extra people. Thus, releasing 20 extra ambulances to care for those in the queue for ambulances.
In China, Zhang Zhan, aged 37, the journalist who helped to expose the cover up of the early outbreak of the virus in Wuhan province, was charged with “trouble making and picking quarrels” and was jailed for 4 years. She has been held in prison since May and is said to be in a poor way having been on hunger strike and been force fed while held in restraints. Although I am very glad we do not have laws like this in the UK there are a few I would like to see dealt with for trouble making. There will massive multinational pressure on the Chinese to release her.
Germany is the latest country to admit a problem with the cold chain in the transport of the vaccine resulting in almost 1000 doses having to be destroyed. A spokesman say they would probably have been alright but probably is not good enough, we cannot be too careful.
Also, in Germany, 8 care workers received 5 times the recommended dose of the vaccine. Four people are in hospital with flu like symptoms. This is clearly down to human error. Very careful detailed checks involving two health care professionals are usually in place to prevent this. I suspect heads will roll when this inquiry is finished.
Michael Gove still wants English schools to have the planned staggered return next week despite fears that the new variant is more transmissible in children. The plan is then to mass test them on return to school. Teaching Unions and many Scientists would like them to stay at home saying the government plans are unworkable. The Government say closing schools is a last resort. I am sorry but I feel we have arrived at the last resort, lets see what happens in the review scheduled for 30th December. It has to get tougher before it can get better.
You know what to do to stay safe, you know how to do it. Whether we like I or not we have no choice but to do it. Stay apart, Stay at home. The next thing will be all trouble makers will be on a trip to China with a one-way ticket. (I joke of course.)
Please stay safe everyone. As always there is plenty to discuss and debate tonight.