Covid news latest roundup

Image above: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (taken from BBC video)

Covid “out of control” in London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said the spread of Covid is “out of control” in London and has declared the pandemic a ‘major incident’ as London hospitals warn they are on the brink of being overwhelmed. The political talk over the weekend has been about the possibility of even stricter measures against Covid to come.

A ‘major incident’ is one on such a scale and complexity that it requires coordination between emergency services. Previously that status has been given to emergencies such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the terror attacks on Westminster and London bridges.

Mayor Khan said he had taken this action:

“because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die”.

Speaking to the BBC on Saturday 9 January he said:

“The NHS in London is at risk of being overwhelmed. The staff there are working heroically. But it’s a real risk over the course of the next couple of weeks, unless the virus reduces and there are fewer people going into hospital, we could run out of beds.

“The NHS is doing an amazing job. They are stretched. But to give you an example, normally the ambulance service on a daily basis receives about 5,000 calls a day. They’re receiving between 8,000 and 9,000 calls a day, which is why our brilliant firefighters are now driving some ambulances”.

West London hospital “close to being overwhelmed”

In west London the latest data from Imperial College NHS Trust (which includes Charing Cross) shows 219 Covid patients had been admitted to their hospitals in the seven day period 28 December – 3 January with the virus. There have been reports of ambulance drivers waiting up to nine hours to unload their patients to overstretched hospitals.

Professor Jeremy Levy, a consultant nephrologist (kidney doctor) at a west London hospital told The Chiswick Calendar on 4 January:

“My hospital – which is your local hospital – has filled almost all space for the sickest patients, despite having massively expanded the available ITU beds, and is close to becoming overwhelmed”.

You can read his guest blog here: Professor Jeremy Levy has received his Covid vaccination and says it’s imperative that when you’re offered one, you take the opportunity

Image above: BBC Home editor Mark Easton at the emergency mortuary in Surrey

West London preparing emergency morgue facilities

Surrey has one of the highest infection rates in the country. A new emergency morgue has been set up there to cope with the number of bodies. The BBC’s Mark Easton filed a TV report from there on Sunday 10 January.

London also has contingency plans. An emergency morgue was set up in March 2020 in Hillingdon to service west London. It was used over the summer and decommissioned in July, but it is now being prepared for use once more.

Evidence that people are bending the lockdown rules

The mayor stressed again the importance of obeying lockdown rules and not mixing with other people outside our own household or bubble. Across London on average, one out of 30 Londoners now has this virus, but in some parts of London it’s one out of 20. The number of people now in hospital with Covid is 35% more than at the peak in spring 2020.

In Chiswick the rate of new infections has been around 300 a week for the past three weeks, having shot up in mid-December.

READ ALSO: Covid rate in Chiswick stays high

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the public on Sunday 10 January that bending the coronavirus lockdown rules “could be fatal”. He told Sophie Ridge on Sunday on Sky News:

“These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed. They are the limit to what people should be doing”.

Professor Chris Whitty did a round of interviews on Monday 11 December, warning people that there was “a very high chance” that someone with whom they’d had unnecessary contact had Covid-19. “This is the most dangerous time” he said.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, people are making more journeys during this lockdown than they were in the first one. The number of journeys being made on foot, by car and on public transport during the lockdown introduced on 4 January is significantly higher than in the first, but lower than during the second, according to figures produced by Apple, based on requests for directions using its Maps app.

At the start of the first lockdown the number of journeys by foot, compared with a pre-pandemic baseline of January 2020 was down by 70%. This time around it is only down by 30%. Journeys by car are down 40% compared with 70% during the first lockdown.

The Telegraph was among those newspapers to report on 11 January that there may be stricter anti Covid measures about to be introduced. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss the extent to which the lockdown rules were working and whether they should be tightened.

READ ALSO: Alert level 5 – what it means

Image above: People queuing for their vaccinations at Chiswick Health Centre

Chiswick’s elderly delighted to be getting their vaccinations

Chiswick Health Centre is one of 80 places in London which is offering vaccinations to elderly and vulnerable people who are being contacted by the NHS to get their jab. They started delivering vaccinations on Wednesday 6 January.

In the first few days there were long queues and some people, by definition elderly or with health conditions, decided they couldn’t wait up to an hour, standing outside in the cold and went home without it.

One woman who was concerned about the queue and took her elderly mother home again without being vaccinated, told The Chiswick Calendar she’d spoken to the practice manager subsequently and learned that they’d received double the dose of pfiser vaccine than they had ordered, which meant they had to vaccinate double the number of people they’d anticipated over the initial three days. The vaccine had to be delivered because it has a shelf life of three days.

The Health Centre has told The Chiswick Calendar that it was only on the first day that there was a long queue and they now felt they had it under control. Read two contrasting experiences of receiving the vaccination from people who have written to us.

READ ALSO: First vaccinations being carried out at Chiswick Health Centre

“I congratulate the staff on doing a fantastic job”

The vast majority of people who’ve spoken about being vaccinated, many of whom were in and out quickly, were just very grateful to have received their jab, even if it did mean waiting about in the cold.

Local resident Diana Lea was vaccinated at Chiswick Health Centre on Thursday. She told us:

“It was great, very socially distanced. The staff were awesome and kept us moving.  They were working so hard there, they were practically running.  They said they expected they’d vaccinate about 500 people that day (Thursday). The day before (Wednesday) they said they only did around 380 because the vaccine arrived about two hours late.

“People are taken in in batches of 20 minutes. There’s no point turning up early, you have to be processed in your batch. The jab was Pfizer and I was told to expect the next one in three weeks. The whole process took 26 minutes, including the 12 minutes they say you must have sitting down at the end.

“I really congratulate the staff on doing a fantastic job and for the patience and kindness they showed to some very elderly -and sometimes confused – people.“

Everyone over 18 “to be offered a vaccine by autumn” – Matt Hancock

On 4 January Boris Johnson said he thought it was a realistic expectation that the top four priority vaccination groups would be vaccinated by mid-February. These are residents in care homes – both older adults and their carers, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is considered ‘extremely vulnerable’.

Since then Matt Hancock has said he thinks all adults will be vaccinated by the autumn. He told the BBC on Sunday that 2 million people had already been immunised and that a third on people over 80 had been vaccinated.

“Every adult will be offered a vaccine by the autumn, absolutely,” Hancock said.

Image above: Staff at Chiswick School carrying out Rapid Covid-19 tests

Covid tests for people who don’t have symptoms

Meanwhile councils have started offering Covid tests for people who aren’t showing any symptoms of Covid, in an attempt to decrease the spread of the virus. About one in three people with coronavirus have no symptoms, but can still pass the virus to others without knowing.

There are two venues in Hounslow where you can go for a test, the nearest to Chiswick being Hounslow House – book a free test on LB Hounslow’s website. There are five centres in LB Ealing, the nearest to Chiswick being Acton Centre in High St, Acton, and three centres in LB Hammersmith & Fulham, the nearest to Chiswick being 145 King St., Hammersmith.

“The consequences of these individuals passing the virus on could have been catastrophic”

Secondary schools are now testing staff and pupils. Within the first couple of days of testing, staff at Chiswick School found positive results. Deputy Head Jane Mills said:

“It was very interesting as the individuals had no symptoms whatsoever; if we hadn’t had access to the testing, the consequences of these individuals passing the virus on could have been catastrophic. We have the children of doctors and nurses at school and if they were to have been effected, they could have then passed this on to their parents. It is so important that parents and carers keep their children at home if they can, even if only one is a key worker, as this will protect the NHS and stop families becoming unwell.”

READ ALSO: Chiswick School starts Covid testing programme

READ ALSO: Rapid Covid-19 tests available in Hounslow

Volunteers wanted

LB Hounslow is looking for volunteers to act at Vaccination marshals. Volunteers will assist with marshalling patients at the Vaccination Centres, organising parking and performing simple tasks such as welcoming people into the centre, ensuring they stick to the social distancing guidelines and managing the flow of people through the building.

To apply visit Covid-19 Vaccination Hub Marshal for NHS Hounslow CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) – Ealing and Hounslow CVS (Community Voluntary Service) – ehcvs.org.uk

Any questions, email HOUCCG.communications@nhs.net

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Customs, confusion and charges: Chiswick struggles with Brexit

See also: Covid and Brexit – “a hideous cocktail” for shopkeepers

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