January 1 2021

Well, the long-awaited New Year is upon us, we have left the EU, but we still have a war to fight with Covid. Reinforcements have arrived in the form of vaccines but we still have a way to go to be rid of this dreadful virus.

It remains part of the Holiday and today being a Bank Holiday always reduces the figures. It will be Tuesday before they settle down. 420,492 tests were done in the last twenty-four hours, with 53,285 being positive. That is a 305 rise in the seven-day rolling average and even more worrying is that the national average rate has risen to over 400/100k. Today it was 401/100k The deaths recorded in the last 24 hours amount to 613. This will be an underestimate as it is difficult to register deaths on a public holiday. The death rate has risen significantly and is now 5.3/100k of the population. Hospitals have been too busy to provide statistics.

Many people did follow the pleas to stay at home last night but still the police in London had to break up 56 illegal large parties and issued several hundred fines including some at the maximum £10,000 for the organisers. Similar reports are from all over the country. Sadly, my ambulance service colleagues report numerous stabbings and drunk driving incidents in the early hours.

As for me, an early night to watch the start of the New Year from the safety and comfort of my bed. I watched the amazing display of lights and fireworks which had been kept secret. I was intrigued by the technology which allowed moving images in the sky. This morning I researched how it had been done and was most interested to find it had all been done with 300 drones. The drones were all controlled by computer, turning lights on and off and positioning themselves in the right position and then to move to give the appearance of movement. They were controlled from one image to the next and at the end were all brought safely back to base. A truly remarkable effort, well done to those involved in planning and executing it.

Good news is that now 1 million first doses of the Covid immunisation have been given. I apologise if I misled you yesterday but neither of the vaccines have yet been approved for those under 16. I have no doubt that particularly for the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine this will come soon when more data is examined.

A new study on the effectiveness or otherwise of masks, suggest, they may improve the chance or risk of spreading the virus to others nearby from 3% to 17%, depending on the type of mask being used. The general public are asked to use the cotton face covers generally available. The more layers the greater the effectiveness. A wire clip over the nose improves the fit. Disposable masks really should only be worn once and then changed. The top-quality masks with close fitting filters are in short supply and should only be worn by front line clinical staff. I have not been able to make a detailed critical analysis of this yet. Does anyone want to volunteer to do it? What is absolutely clear is that they do not completely prevent spread, but may, if used properly help reduce the chance. Wearing them incorrectly may still increase the risk. Staying well apart is much more effective. The Royal London Hospital I follow with great interest as I trained there. I was concerned to hear them saying today “ We are now working in Disaster Medicine mode.” This means they are no longer able to provide the very high quality medical care to those critically ill due to lack of staff. The categories of major incident severity were first described by Rutherford in Belfast in the 1960s. He described an uncompensated incident, where no further staff could be found and no other hospitals could help. As far as I am aware this has never been called in the UK before. It is usually used in earthquakes, severe flooding and incidents like the Beirut explosion.

I noted the NHS has some 84,000 staff vacancies, with 38,000 nursing posts available, that’s 10 % of the nursing work force.

At the same time I read that some 176,000 jobs have been lost in the high streets who probably will never return to previous employment levels due to our new ways of shopping. If just 5% of those now unemployed were to commit to retraining as nurses or other NHS positions it would go a long way to help the current crisis.

The British economy is set to jump up by 8% in the coming year, the biggest jump since the end of WW2. Brexit helps the situation but so does conquering Covid. This is excellent news to start the year with.

Wait patiently for your vaccine, be patient it’s coming very soon. Above all make the lockdown work and stay at home. There are still far too many people driving 50 miles or more to play on the beach or explore a beauty spot. If people do not listen, we will be forbidden to travel for exercise or pleasure, with a 5 mile restriction and curfews. If you do not listen and act do not blame me or the Government, it is those that ignore the advice that will be responsible. Both Science and our Government are well aware of what is required from everyone.

Please Stay Safe.

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