Disruption to hospital services ‘could last a couple of weeks due to short and sharp Omicron wave’
People should expect disruptions to the normal operations of East Riding hospitals and other services as coronavirus case increases continue to affect staffing, the council’s public health lead has said.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health director Andy Kingdom said disruptions could last for a couple of weeks as infection surges lead to staff isolations and more patients come into hospital.
He added he was hoping that high vaccine booster uptakes would curb the amount of people needing hospital treatment but more time was needed to study the trends.
It comes as 6,385 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the East Riding from Tuesday, December 28 to Monday, January 3, up from 3,364 cases in the previous week.
The rolling infection rate rose from 980 to 1,860 cases per 100,000 people during the same period.
Mr Kingdom said the increases were even larger among younger age groups, with the rate for working age adults rising from around 500 to about 2,500 per 100,000.
He added the rate for school age children had risen by between five and six times over the same period.
Mr Kingdom said: “We’ve seen a massive increase in infections.
“The question at the moment is do these new cases turn into hospitalisations or deaths?
“I’m watching that very closely, because the hope is that having both vaccines and the booster will cut the likelihood of that by around 85%. We know already that having vaccines reduces the chance people will end up in hospital, but the problem is it doesn’t stop people passing coronavirus on to each other.
“That’s got consequences which we’re seeing with staffing not just in hospitals but in all the sectors which support them, that’s the pressure that’s on the system at the moment. I’m expecting this wave of infections to be short and sharp, but it could do a lot of damage.
“And the issue is that because it takes about a month from catching coronavirus to needing hospital treatment in the worst cases, we won’t see the impact of increases at the New Year until the end of January.
“There’s also the problem of the scale of infections, if we’re getting 1,000 new cases a day, even if only 2% of people become seriously ill, it will push hospital patient numbers up.
“The NHS has already been under pressure this winter and every coronavirus patient taking up a bed is a bed less that can be given to someone who comes into A&E for example.
“If someone falls ill with coronavirus then the ambulance that takes them to hospital can’t be used to get someone whose just had a stroke or a fall.
“If you’re unvaccinated now then the chances of you not catching coronavirus are very slim because of the amount of people who have it around you.
“And it’s now too late for preventative measures like a lockdown because infections are already in households, it’s more about minimising harm at this point.
“The good news is Omicron’s reign should be short because so many people are infected that the population will build up a level of immunity.
“And I’m confident that we have the vaccines in the right people here, I don’t think we’ll see the amount of hospitalisations and deaths we’ve seen elsewhere like London.
“But that’s only the case for those who are vaccinated, I think some people haven’t been because they don’t think Omicron is as dangerous.
“But it is, if you’re unvaccinated and catch it you will get very ill, and Omicron probably accounts for up to 99% of new cases now.
“If you could go to hospital intensive care units you’d see beds full of people who are unvaccinated.
“We’re hearing stories of them saying: ‘if only I knew’, but by then it’s too late.
“We’re hoping the infection surge won’t overlap too much with the staff absences and public health and other bodies have been planning for this since before Christmas.
“But people shouldn’t expect what they normally would from health services for the next few weeks, there’s going to be disruption.”