Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020. 4:57 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: While still among the top five nations in the world for cases (312, 789) and deaths (46,526) from COVID-19, the United Kingdom can report some good news.
According to The Times (London) (paywalled), the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has fallen 96% since the peak of the pandemic, per official data.
Fatalities are down 99% and some hospitals have no coronavirus patients, sparking hope that ‘herd immunity’ may be near.
The National Health Service (NHS) England says hospital staff is treating an average of 700 COVID-19 patients per day, well down from 17 thousand per day at the height of the pandemic in England in April.
Last week, some hospitals did not have a single COVID-19 patient on their wards, with one top doctor suggesting that Britain is “almost reaching herd immunity”, says The Times.
In a further sign of good news, the virus death toll in hospitals has also plummeted. On April 10, the day the highest number of deaths was announced to the nation, NHS England said 866 people had died. On Thursday last week, there were just five hospital deaths across the entire country.
But the work is not done and those with non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart, and lung disease patients in particular hit by delays to their diagnosis and treatment should seek help as soon as possible.
For now, authorities say they do not expect increases in hospital admissions, considering that those who contract the virus and end up in hospital do so within 15 days of contact.
As for why the fall, it is likely due to a combination of factors, such as the most vulnerable and most likely to fall seriously ill with COVID-19 being infected “very early on in March and April,” and the virus becoming “less virulent,” meaning it can replicate better in a living host as opposed to a dead one.
With virus admissions falling rapidly, Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England has urged hospitals to tackle as much of the waiting list as possible between now and winter. The number of people waiting for treatment is set to hit 10 million by the end of the year.
In a letter to NHS regional directors, Stevens wrote: “Having pulled out all the stops to treat COVID patients over the last few months, our health services now need to redouble their focus on the needs of all other patients too.” The focus must be switched to “accelerating the return to near-normal levels of non-COVID health services.”
Hospitals have been told to hit 70 percent of the normal rate of planned operations this month. This must rise to 80 percent in September for both overnight and day-case procedures, and 90 percent in October.
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