Nearly one in 10 NHS staff were off work over New Year’s Eve

Nearly one in 10 NHS workers were off sick over New Year’s Eve as coronavirus continued to hit the health service, official figures reveal.

More than 110,000 of the service’s 983,000 staff in England missed the turn of the year due to illness, its dashboard shows.

Almost 50,000 of these employees were self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, the figures for New Years Eve showed a five percentage point rise, with December 2019 only having 4.69 per cent of staff off ill in total.

The figure was also higher than those off over Boxing Day, when fewer than 25,000 were out of work due to the virus.

Meanwhile patients faced 40-hour waits at A&E, delayed operations and long waits for ambulances as the health service creaked.

One NHS boss warned operations could start being cancelled from next week if hospitalisations surge and said the country will need to bring in more restrictions.

The chief executive of NHS Providers said ‘the next few days are crucial’ and the health service was under ‘arguably more pressure’ than this time last year.

It comes as the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across the country as infections continue to rise, forcing people to lock themselves away for a week.

England’s Covid cases breached 160,000 for the second time in as many days yesterday as ministers continued to avoid enforcing new restrictions.

Elsewhere in coronavirus chaos today:

  • Ministers have rejected calls to reduce the isolation period for coronavirus sufferers from seven to five days;
  • Bosses warned NHS trusts could start cancelling operations next week if Covid hospitalisations escalate;
  • Black people are more than three times more likely than average to have been hospitalised with Omicron;
  • Secondary school pupils will be told to wear face masks from the moment they arrive until they leave;
  • A pregnant woman has become the first person in the world to be infected with Covid and the flu in Israel.
Just one in 40 NHS hospital staff were unavailable to work because of Covid late last month, official figures show. While official figures show the number off with Covid did double in the run-up to Christmas , the virus has prevented only a small fraction of hospital staff from working. (File image)

Just one in 40 NHS hospital staff were unavailable to work because of Covid late last month, official figures show. While official figures show the number off with Covid did double in the run-up to Christmas , the virus has prevented only a small fraction of hospital staff from working. (File image)

Ministers say no to five-day Covid isolation: Fears rise that schools, hospitals and transport networks could grind to a halt as Government defies calls from business chiefs to follow the US’ lead because up to 30% of sufferers ‘would still be infectious’ 

Ministers have rejected calls to reduce the isolation period for Covid sufferers from seven to five days because up to 30 per cent would still be infectious.

Business leaders and some Tory MPs had urged Ministers to follow the lead of other countries, including the US and Greece, by cutting self-isolation for those showing no symptoms to five days.

But a Government source told The Mail on Sunday that, while the option was discussed, it was rejected because so many people could still go on to infect others if released from self-isolation that early.

It comes amid growing concern that lengthy self-isolation is harming vital services and the economy – and with a growing row over the lack of access to lateral flow tests (LFTs).

As millions prepared to return to work after the festive break, Labour accused the Government of failing to order sufficient numbers of LFTs, which are increasingly seen as essential to keep the country moving while minimising the threat from Omicron.  

Advertisement

The 110,000 figure for NHS staff off over New Year’s Eve was for all the health service’s workers. The NHS dashboard showed by December 31 86,716 were off with illness at acute trusts – a leap of 27 per cent.

Of these, 49,921 were away for coronavirus-related reasons, which was up 62 per cent in just five days. These were 19,143 nurses and midwives and 2,120 doctors.

This was a huge leap on Boxing Day, when just one in 40 NHS hospital staff were unavailable to work because of Covid.

NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis last week talked of the NHS being on a ‘war footing’, a phrase since frequently repeated by broadcasters.

But while figures show the number off with Covid did double in the run-up to Christmas, the virus has prevented only hit a small fraction of hospital staff.

On December 1, 12,508 staff at English hospitals were absent due to Covid-19 ‘either through sickness or self- isolation’, according to data from NHS England.

By Boxing Day that had almost doubled to 24,632.

But with 983,000 working in NHS hospitals in England, according to official workforce statistics for 2021, it means only 2.5 per cent of the workforce – or one in 40 – were off due to Covid towards the end of the month.

Meanwhile, non-Covid sickness absences actually fell over the same period, from 47,628 on December 1 to 43,450 on Boxing Day.

As a result, overall sickness-related absences among NHS hospital staff only rose by 13 per cent in December – from 60,136 on the first of the month to 68,082 on December 26.

Consequently, around 93 per cent of hospital staff were still fit and healthy from a work point of view at Christmas. However, the picture is varied between England’s 138 NHS hospital trusts.

Five reported overall sickness or self-isolation absences exceeding ten per cent on Boxing Day – Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (12.2 per cent), Nottingham University Hospitals (12 per cent), Wirral University Teaching Hospitals (10.9 per cent), Warrington and Halton Hospitals (10.8 per cent) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (10.1 per cent).

All had higher than average Covid-related absences.

Taking Covid-related absences alone, three had rates of over five per cent on Boxing Day – Homerton University Hospital in London (7.1 per cent), Royal United Hospitals Bath (6.9 per cent) and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (6.7 per cent).

But nine reported Covid-related absences of less than one per cent of their workforce on December 26.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, the figures for New Years Eve showed a five percentage point rise, with December 2019 only having 4.69 per cent of staff off in total. 

NHS trusts could start cancelling operations next week if Covid hospitalisations escalate significantly, hospital chiefs have warned. Modelling shown to ministers suggests that hospital admissions are doubling every 16 days - and could peak in the middle of January (Pictured: An NHS health worker at a pop-up vaccination centre at Redbridge Town Hall, east London on Christmas Day)

NHS trusts could start cancelling operations next week if Covid hospitalisations escalate significantly, hospital chiefs have warned. Modelling shown to ministers suggests that hospital admissions are doubling every 16 days – and could peak in the middle of January (Pictured: An NHS health worker at a pop-up vaccination centre at Redbridge Town Hall, east London on Christmas Day)

Black patients are over three times more likely than average to have been hospitalised with Omicron, figures show

Black people are more than three times more likely than average to have been hospitalised with Omicron.

While black communities make up about 3.5 per cent of England’s population, data from the UK Health Security Agency shows they make up 12.5 per cent of those who have ended up in hospital with the variant so far.

The number may be even higher, as ethnicity was not recorded in more than a fifth of cases.

Advertisement

Chief Executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson warned more restrictions may be needed soon to stem the flow of patients ending up in hospital.

He said that any more people flooding in will see already ‘flat out’ staff being asked ‘to perform flexible heroics again’.

He wrote on Twitter: ‘NHS now under different, arguably more, pressure compared to last Jan. Much busier urgent and emergency care pathway.

‘Many more planned care cases that cannot be delayed without patient harm. Booster vaccination campaign significantly more resource intensive/complex.

‘Staff absences having greater impact in many trusts. Much greater pressure on social & primary care.

‘All having big impact. NHS – community, mental health, ambulances and hospitals alike – and social care beyond full stretch. Staff facing mountainous workload day in day out.’

He continued: ‘If growth rates go back up again (e.g. Xmas effect) trusts likely to have to start standing up extra surge capacity late next week.

‘Putting pressure on less urgent elective activity. Trusts will do all they can to keep going with urgent and high priority elective activity.’

He added: ‘NHS not been able to grow capacity to meet growing demand. Had to try to close gap by asking staff to work harder, giving them an impossible workload, meaning they can’t provide care they feel patients need. And successive Govts failed to solve growing social care problems.

‘These are all major contributors to current issues and need to be addressed longer term. But, secondly, right now, NHS facing potential immediate emergency it needs to prepare for.’

He added: ‘Choice could potentially be leaving patients untreated or creating extra temporary capacity.’

Secondary school pupils will be told to wear face masks all day when they return this week

Secondary school pupils will be told to wear face masks from the moment they arrive until they leave when they return to classrooms this week.

In a desperate effort to protect the education of millions of youngsters amid a sharp rise in cases of the Omicron variant, Ministers have requested that pupils cover their faces all day – including while they are being taught.

Students are already asked to wear masks in communal areas.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last night said he and Boris Johnson saw schools as their ‘No 1 priority’, adding that they wanted to ‘do everything in our power to minimise disruption’.

Advertisement

England’s Covid cases breached 160,000 for the second time in as many days yesterday, data showed as ministers continued to avoid enforcing new restrictions.

UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880.

It is the highest total reported on a day in England ever, with 160,276 cases recorded on Friday.

Some 154 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded across the nation, up 83 per cent from the 84 recorded in the UK last week.

Figures were not available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of differences in reporting schedules over the New Year weekend. Hospitalisation data was also not updated.

The figures come after millions of Britons partied into 2022 at late night venues across restriction-free England on New Year’s Eve.

Thousands came from Scotland where measures such as table service in bars and no nightclubs prompted them to seek entertainment on the far side of the River Tweed.

Revellers joined boozy celebrations from Newcastle to Portsmouth and Manchester to Brighton on the final day of 2021 as they ignored the threat from Omicron.

Partygoers packed into pubs, bars and clubs until the early hours of the morning despite heightened fears about the spread of the Covid after the UK recorded 189,846 new cases on Friday and 203 deaths.

The Office for National Statistics reported an estimated 2.3million people in the UK had the virus in the week ending December 23, setting another pandemic record.

But in a fresh boost for the nation’s businesses, Sajid Javid hinted tighter restrictions remain unlikely as he implored the nation to ‘try to live’ alongside the virus.

Secondary school pupils will be told to wear face masks all day when they return this week – as PM says keeping classrooms open is his number one priority in the face of Omicron and testing chaos

  • Students will have to wear masks in all communal areas – including classrooms
  • Ministers are bringing in the rules because of the threat posed  by Omicron 
  • The rule will not be law although schools will be expected to follow the guidance
  • Ministers are braced for a ‘big bang’ when pupils are tested returning to school

Secondary school pupils will be told to wear face masks from the moment they arrive until they leave when they return to classrooms this week.

In a desperate effort to protect the education of millions of youngsters amid a sharp rise in cases of the Omicron variant, Ministers have requested that pupils cover their faces all day – including while they are being taught.

Students are already asked to wear masks in communal areas.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last night said he and Boris Johnson saw schools as their ‘No 1 priority’, adding that they wanted to ‘do everything in our power to minimise disruption’.

School teachers and pupils will have to wear masks when they return to the classroom next week under new guidance issued by the government

School teachers and pupils will have to wear masks when they return to the classroom next week under new guidance issued by the government 

British-made lateral flow tests are BANNED in UK despite being cleared for use in EU

The Government is relying on Chinese suppliers for lateral flow testing kits because most British manufacturers have failed to be cleared for use in the UK, it has been claimed. Despite millions of pounds of investment to create a world-leading testing programme in the UK, only one British manufacturer has produced a rapid test that meets UK requirements, reports suggest.

According to the Sunday Times, several British companies are frustrated that despite their tests being certified for use in Europe, they have not passed checks in the UK. The newspaper reports that Omega Diagnostics, based in Stirling, and Global Access Diagnostics, a Bedford-based firm, have produced testing kits that did not pass regulation and so the Government has not placed any orders with them. Both companies were in receipt of government funding after signing contracts in March 2021, the Sunday Times reports, and it is understood the Government is now asking for £2.5million to be repaid by Omega.

Advertisement

The wearing of masks is not a legal requirement, but Ministers expect schools to follow the guidance, which also applies to teachers and support staff.

The measures will be reviewed on January 26, with a Government source saying they ‘will not be in place a minute longer than they need to be’, and adding: ‘It is obviously a better classroom experience without masks.’

Ministers are braced for a ‘big bang’ of Omicron cases and staff shortages when students and teachers are tested for coronavirus this week.

A substantial surge in either could see larger class sizes or a return to remote learning for some pupils.

In London, where rates of Omicron are particularly high, parents have been warned that school closures cannot be ruled out.

‘As a general rule, the more you test the more you are going to find Covid,’ the source said. ‘But the idea is that by containing it early, you stop the spread in schools.’

Many MPs are opposed to online lessons given the damage already done to the education of millions of youngsters by successive lockdowns.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday today, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Select Committee, says: ‘Pupils do not need to take any more time off. Every day lost is another day that we are damaging children’s lives.’

As well as the new measures on masks, the Government is deploying 7,000 extra air-cleaning units across the education sector to improve ventilation and slow the spread of Omicron. The schools regulator Ofcom is also temporarily suspending inspections.

Ministers fear there will be a massive increase in Omicron cases when children return to the classroom next week

Ministers fear there will be a massive increase in Omicron cases when children return to the classroom next week 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last night said he and Boris Johnson saw schools as their ‘No 1 priority’, adding that they wanted to ‘do everything in our power to minimise disruption’

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last night said he and Boris Johnson saw schools as their ‘No 1 priority’, adding that they wanted to ‘do everything in our power to minimise disruption’

The moves came as: 

  • A daily record of 162,572 Covid cases was recorded in England, up 47.9 per cent on last Saturday. There were 1,915 hospital admissions, up almost 50 per cent week-on-week, and 154 deaths; 
  • Ministers rejected calls to cut the isolation period for those with Covid-19 from seven to five days because up to 30 per cent would still be infectious; 
  • The continued shortage of lateral flow tests sparked fears of staff shortages in schools and hospitals and travel chaos when Britain returns to work this week; 
  • Official figures show that 132 million coronavirus jabs were given last year, with more than 90 per cent of over-12s now having had at least one jab. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the figure was ‘astounding and a true reflection of the fantastic work of our NHS and its volunteers’; 
  • The head of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said the next few days would be crucial in understanding the impact of Omicron and Ministers ‘must be ready to introduce new restrictions at pace if they’re needed’; 
  • As a dozen hospitals temporarily suspended routine visits, the British Medical Association said further public health measures should be urgently introduced. But analysis of official figures reveal that just one in 40 NHS hospital staff were unavailable to work because of coronavirus in late December; 
  • MPs called for action after health trusts reintroduced Covid restrictions which force pregnant women to attend scans and appointments alone; 
  • Thousands of revellers from Scotland and Wales, where tougher coronavirus restrictions are in place, crossed the border into England to welcome in the New Year; 
  • One in eight of those hospitalised with Omicron are from black communities, but studies suggest the variant does less damage to the lungs than previous strains; 
  • As the MoS discovered dangerous anti-vax propaganda on YouTube, a father whose pregnant daughter died after being persuaded by such material not to get jabbed urged the tech firm to step up its efforts.

Teaching unions broadly welcomed the Government’s move on masks.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Reintroducing face masks in secondary classrooms appears to be a sensible move, given the circumstances.’

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the decision was ‘overdue’ and urged Ministers to make it a ‘requirement’.

No 10 is understood to have ruled out a return of the ‘bubble’ system which saw entire classes – and sometimes years – sent home if a single pupil tested positive.

‘That’s all in the past. We want to carry on classroom teaching,’ the source said.

Given the prospect of staff shortages, Ministers have renewed efforts to lure retired teachers back to the classroom.

A website through which former teachers can volunteer has received 30,000 visits and Tory MPs Jonathan Gullis and Caroline Ansell, both qualified teachers, have signed up.

Teaching unions broadly welcomed the Government’s move on masks. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Reintroducing face masks in secondary classrooms appears to be a sensible move, given the circumstances’

Teaching unions broadly welcomed the Government’s move on masks. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Reintroducing face masks in secondary classrooms appears to be a sensible move, given the circumstances’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured, has been warned to expect a 'big bang' of Omicron cases in schools when they return next week. Teachers and support staff will also be required to wear masks. The measures will be reviewed on January 26

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured, has been warned to expect a ‘big bang’ of Omicron cases in schools when they return next week. Teachers and support staff will also be required to wear masks. The measures will be reviewed on January 26

Tom Hunt, another Conservative MP who sits on the Education Select Committee, urged the Government to keep an open mind on reducing the isolation period from seven to five days, as countries including the US and Greece have done.

‘Remote learning should not be on the table… It is mission-critical to keep schools open and keep kids physically in school. No stone should be left unturned,’ he said.

Mr Hunt also urged teaching unions to be ‘constructive’.

His call came as it emerged guidance issued by the NEU advised school leaders that teachers should only have to cover for colleagues on ‘rare’ occasions.

Further guidance issued by the union before Christmas said: ‘If you are asked to cover for a colleague who is off with Covid or any other absence greater than two days, you should refuse to do it.’

Chris McGovern, the chairman of the Campaign For Real Education, said: ‘This is educational sabotage. Teachers have a choice.

‘The best and the bravest will continue to put their pupils first and they will be remembered for doing so.’

Ministers say no to five-day Covid isolation: Fears rise that schools, hospitals and transport networks could grind to a halt as Government defies calls from business chiefs to follow the US’ lead because up to 30% of sufferers ‘would still be infectious’

By Stephen Adams for the Mail on Sunday

Ministers have rejected calls to reduce the isolation period for Covid sufferers from seven to five days because up to 30 per cent would still be infectious.

Business leaders and some Tory MPs had urged Ministers to follow the lead of other countries, including the US and Greece, by cutting self-isolation for those showing no symptoms to five days.

But a Government source told The Mail on Sunday that, while the option was discussed, it was rejected because so many people could still go on to infect others if released from self-isolation that early.

Lateral flow tests have been ring-fenced for schools so they can open safely next week

Lateral flow tests have been ring-fenced for schools so they can open safely next week 

Commuters face significant disruption because of large numbers of train and bus workers forced to self-isolate leading to cancelled services

Commuters face significant disruption because of large numbers of train and bus workers forced to self-isolate leading to cancelled services

It comes amid growing concern that lengthy self-isolation is harming vital services and the economy – and with a growing row over the lack of access to lateral flow tests (LFTs).

As millions prepared to return to work after the festive break, Labour accused the Government of failing to order sufficient numbers of LFTs, which are increasingly seen as essential to keep the country moving while minimising the threat from Omicron.

Ministers insist hundreds of millions more LFTs will soon be available.

Just before Christmas, self-isolation was reduced from ten to seven days as long as the individual is negative for Covid on two LFTs – the first on day six and the second on day seven.

Asked about the proposal for a further cut to five days, the Government source said: ‘The data we have is that almost one in three people could still be infectious five days after testing positive with Omicron. It isn’t thought it would be safe to cut self-isolation that far.’

The decision differs from that taken in the US where the influential Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the move to halve self-isolation from ten to five days would ‘ensure people can safely continue their daily lives’.

To re-enter everyday life after five days, Americans must be symptom-free and wear a mask around others for a further five days.

In Greece, Health Minister Thanos Plevris indicated that Omicron’s relative mildness compared with previous variants lay behind its decision to cut the period of self-isolation. ‘The evidence we have from Omicron is encouraging,’ he said.

Rather than solely rely on being symptom-free after five days, the UK Government could in theory require people to have two negative LFT results but move them forward to days four and five.

The system is, however, self-policing and people who test negative on LFTs can still be infectious, as they are less sensitive than the gold-standard PCR tests.

Another consideration would be the current poor availability of LFTs, with many pharmacies out of stock due to soaring demand.

Isolation is also causing problems in hospitals with NHS staff forced to remain at home

Isolation is also causing problems in hospitals with NHS staff forced to remain at home

Last night, Labour’s health spokesman Wes Streeting said Health Secretary Sajid Javid needed to ‘pull his finger out’ to ensure people had access to the tests.

He added: ‘Given how critical testing is going to be over the course of the coming months, the Government really does need to get an immediate grip on this.

‘Testing is going to be vital to keep people working and keeping children at school. If families can’t do that, because Ministers haven’t got their act together, they will have a lot to answer for.’

Around one million LFTs are being taken every day, twice as many as PCRs.

When Omicron emerged in early December, health officials were adamant there would be enough supplies to meet higher demand.

Mr Streeting said: ‘The Health Secretary said before Christmas the challenge was distribution not supply, and there were plentiful stocks of tests in warehouses.

‘But I think it’s more likely the Government has simply underestimated demand, hasn’t ordered enough tests, and doesn’t want to ‘fess up about it.’

Ministers insist hundreds of millions of tests will soon be available and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says tests have been ringfenced for schools to ensure they can reopen safely this week.

With Britain returning to work this week, commuters are also worried that Covid-related staff shortages will bring misery on trains.

More than 20 rail companies have already reduced services or plan to do so as a result of Covid infections and self-isolation rules.

British-made lateral flow tests are BANNED in UK despite being cleared for use in EU… leaving the government relying on swab kits from CHINA

  • British manufacturers reportedly frustrated with strict UK new checks on tests
  • Only one British firm – SureScreen – is cleared to supply lateral flow tests to UK
  • Government relies heavily on two Chinese companies to fill testing requirement 

The Government is relying on Chinese suppliers for lateral flow testing kits because most British manufacturers have failed to be cleared for use in the UK, it has been claimed.

Despite millions of pounds of investment to create a world-leading testing programme in the UK, only one British manufacturer has produced a rapid test that meets UK requirements, reports suggest.

According to the Sunday Times, several British companies are frustrated that despite their tests being certified for use in Europe, they have not passed checks in the UK.

The newspaper reports that Omega Diagnostics, based in Stirling, and Global Access Diagnostics, a Bedford-based firm, have produced testing kits that did not pass regulation and so the Government has not placed any orders with them.

Both companies were in receipt of government funding after signing contracts in March 2021, the Sunday Times reports, and it is understood the Government is now asking for £2.5million to be repaid by Omega.

The Government is relying on Chinese suppliers for lateral flow testing kits because most British manufacturers have failed to be cleared for use in the UK, it has been claimed

The Government is relying on Chinese suppliers for lateral flow testing kits because most British manufacturers have failed to be cleared for use in the UK, it has been claimed

Flowflex, made by Chinese manufacturer Acon Biotech, is one of the approved tests in the UK

Flowflex, made by Chinese manufacturer Acon Biotech, is one of the approved tests in the UK

The delays in approval comes after new regulations were introduced in November which require tests in the UK to pass the Coronavirus Test Device Approvals.

Tim Peto is a professor of medicine at Oxford University, is on the committee that checks Porton Down’s assessments of tests.

He told the Times: ‘Some of the English manufacturers are very unhappy their kits have failed and some of them think that they’ve been unfairly tested. I don’t know on what grounds they think it’s unfair other than it came out negative.’

British-made tests are now being sold abroad because they are unable to get certification for use in this country.

The main suppliers of NHS lateral flow tests are Chinese brands Orient Gene, made by Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech, and FlowFlex, made by Acon Biotech, according to the Times, who reports that both companies are more experienced in manufacturing lateral flow testing kits on a large scale compared to British companies.

It comes after the Government came under fire for a widespread shortage of testing kits over the Christmas period.

Despite ministers urging friends and families to get tested before socialising over Christmas and New Year, people struggled to get hold of kits.

The Government’s website frequently suspended the delivery of home tests while walk-in appointments for PCR tests were regularly booked up.

Orient Gene Biotech, a Chinese firm, is one of two major approved manufacturers in the UK

Orient Gene Biotech, a Chinese firm, is one of two major approved manufacturers in the UK

SureScreen is the only British manufacturer to have received Government approval for tests

SureScreen is the only British manufacturer to have received Government approval for tests

Pharmacists called on the Government to increase its supply as they said they were being forced to turn customers away empty-handed due to a lack of stock.

In response to the backlash, the UK Health Security Agency insisted it had increased its capacity to enable the delivery of 900,000 testing kits a day.

Meanwhile, Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet, said he had been told by the Health Secretary there was a ‘world shortage’ of testing supplies.

He told MailOnline last week: ‘Originally it was a delivery problem, now it’s a supply and delivery problem.

‘[Sajid Javid] was very upfront and straight about it. He said there is a world shortage of lateral flow tests.’

The MP for North Thanet added: ‘The British company making them has cranked up its production by four times and is now producing 20million a week instead of five million. We the Brits are buying all those, plus anything else we can get our hands on, but we are competing with everybody else on a worldwide market.’

Pharmacists last week urged the Government to increase its supply of lateral flow testing kits as they said they were being forced to send people away empty-handed due to a shortage

Pharmacists last week urged the Government to increase its supply of lateral flow testing kits as they said they were being forced to send people away empty-handed due to a shortage

The only approved British supplier of lateral flow devices is Derby-based SureScreen Diagnostics who were officially announced in September.

The Government championed the company, saying it had created more than 370 jobs in the Midlands and that it has the capacity to manufacture 7million tests per week with plans to increase this to 14million by the end of December.

The UKHSA said: ‘In building the largest diagnostic industry in UK history, we have delivered 400 million tests since the start of the pandemic, playing a vital role in tackling the spread of Covid-19.

‘NHS Test and Trace has drawn on expertise from across the public and private sectors and all contracts are awarded in line with procurement regulations and transparency guidelines.

‘SureScreen, a British manufacturer, has committed to supplying 20 million lateral flow tests.’        

Mother-of-three, 31, gives up being an anti-vaxxer and gets two jabs after she and father fell ‘badly’ ill with Covid

  •  Saja Ali, 31, was severely ill with covid in February last year, which left her bed bound at her home in Didsbury for four weeks and hospitalised her father 
  • The mother-of-three got her jabs after recovering and now credits the vaccine with keeping her safe and healthy when she tested positive a second time

A mother-of-three and self-proclaimed ‘anti-vaxxer’ has changed her views on vaccinations after contracting coronavirus twice, and after the virus hospitalised her father. 

Saja Ali, 31, was severely ill with the virus in February last year, leaving her bed bound at her home in Didsbury, south Manchester for four weeks. 

Meanwhile her father also contracted the virus and spent 11 days in hospital. 

She admitted that she had not taken up the offer to receive her vaccination at the time because she had been wary of it due to what she had heard and read.   

‘For me, it was all because it was new. It was a new vaccine and I was hearing a lot of conspiracy theories,’ she said. 

Saja Ali, 31, was severely ill with the virus in February last year

Saja Ali, 31, was severely ill with the virus in February last year

‘At the time my husband was also really against it. I did not think twice about not having a jab.

‘Then I got it.  It totally changed my mind. A week later my dad caught Covid and needed hospital treatment. We were prepared for the worst with him. He was in hospital for 11 days and needed help.

‘It made me think. I have three kids and it just made me realise.’

After recovering, she got her jabs and is now speaking out to encourage others to get theirs. 

She now credits the vaccination programme with keeping her safe and preventing severe illness once again after she tested positive for the virus a second time before Christmas.    

‘A lot of people are still claiming the vaccine doesn’t work,’ she said. ‘I think those who have caught Covid more than once should speak out to raise awareness.

‘The vaccine does work and does prevent worse symptoms.

‘I was a complete anti-vaxxer until I got Covid-19 really, really badly back in February.

‘I had it again and I honestly felt fine.  I believe that it was purely down to the vaccine.

After recovering, Saja got her jabs and is now speaking out to encourage others to get theirs (Stock Image)

After recovering, Saja got her jabs and is now speaking out to encourage others to get theirs (Stock Image) 

‘I felt a bit tired but nothing to stop me doing what I would normally do in a day. It was nothing like it was back in February.

‘I believe the vaccine won’t stop people from being poorly, but it will help prevent you from falling really ill and needing hospital treatment.’

Britain is currently considering giving out fourth Covid vaccines in a bid to stop the surge of Omicron cases, following the lead of Germany and Israel.

The rollout of a second set of boosters is being examined by experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

Those with weakened immune systems are already entitled to a fourth job but the elderly and other vulnerable groups could soon be included.

The fourth jab would likely come four months after the third if it gets the green light.  

Covid infections in England hit record 162,572 with another 154 deaths after revellers partied into 2022 without restrictions as Sajid Javid reveals tighter rules are unlikely – while Scots fear party-goers will bring virus back with them over the border

  • UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours in England 
  • Some 154 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded across the nation, up 83 per cent in a week
  • Figures were not available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and hospitalisation data was not updated 

England’s Covid cases breached 160,000 for the second time in as many days yesterday, official statistics showed as ministers continued to avoid enforcing new restrictions.

UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880. 

It is the highest total reported on a day in England ever, with 160,276 cases recorded on Friday.

Some 154 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded across the nation, up 83 per cent from the 84 recorded in the UK last week.

Figures were not available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of differences in reporting schedules over the New Year weekend. Hospitalisation data was also not updated.

The figures come after millions of Britons partied into 2022 at late night venues across restriction-free England on New Year’s Eve, with thousands coming from Scotland – where measures such as table service in bars and no nightclubs prompted them to seek entertainment on the far side of the River Tweed.

Revellers joined boozy celebrations from Newcastle to Portsmouth and Manchester to Brighton on the final day of 2021 as they ignored the threat from Omicron and marked the end of a tumultuous 12 months.

Partygoers packed into pubs, bars and clubs until the early hours of the morning despite heightened fears about the spread of the Covid after the UK recorded 189,846 new cases Friday and 203 deaths.  

The Office for National Statistics reported an estimated 2.3million people in the UK had the virus in the week ending December 23, setting another pandemic record.

But in a fresh boost for the nation’s businesses, Health Secretary Sajid Javid hinted tighter restrictions on our everyday lives remain unlikely as he implored the nation to ‘try to live’ alongside the virus. 

However, the mass arrivals from north of the English border prompted some Scots to worry on social media that returning revellers would bring coronavirus back with them. 

One said that those who had taken part in celebrations in England would ‘spread further infection around Scotland’.

UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880. Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, hinted that no fresh restrictions would come into force in England as he said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid

UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880. Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, hinted that no fresh restrictions would come into force in England as he said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid

Pictures taken in Edinburgh and Glasgow showed the extent of the exodus to Newcastle, while in Bristol, bars and clubs were packed with Welsh people.     

Empty chairs were piled up outside bars and restaurants in Glasgow’s usually bustling Merchant City district, while sparse crowds of shoppers were seen along the iconic Royal Mile.

Though, around 1,000 people made the annual pilgrimage up Calton Hill in Edinburgh for the stroke of midnight where they were greeted by a lone piper. 

In Newcastle, pubs filled up with eager revellers including groups of Scottish ‘Covid refugees’ who declared themselves ‘fed up’ with the tough rules in Scotland.

Josh Urquart, Dean Heggie, Campbell McLean and Jamie had kicked off the celebrations early Friday in a pub where they sat next to a Saltire.

Dylan Neill and Alex Cairns, both 18, had travelled from Fife with a group of pals who were checking in at their hotel in the city centre at around 1pm.

College student Dylan said: ‘We can’t go out properly back home so we’ve come to Newcastle for a night out. It’s something different.

‘It’s not ideal having these restrictions in place at New Year. If we’d stayed in Scotland we might have ended up sitting at somebody’s house. Now we’ve come here we’ll be able to go out properly.’

Meanwhile, Alex, who also goes to college, was frustrated by the local restrictions preventing him and his friends from hitting the town at home.

He said: ‘We’re fed up now with the rules at our local. Everyone in Newcastle would be fed up with it too if they were in place here.

‘We plan on going to the nightclub Tup Tup later but not sure where before that. Some of us have been here before but some never have. We’re looking forward to going out.’

A third friend, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘We’re fed up of Nicola Sturgeon putting in these restrictions. That’s why we’re happy to be in Newcastle where we can go out and have fun.’

One Scot who was concerned about the potential for revellers to bring Covid-19 back with them said on Twitter that they risked ‘bringing further infection back to Scotland’. They added: ‘we all know there could be another variant’ of the virus. 

But some people in England also complained about Scots coming in their droves to Scotland. One said they would be ‘having an early night’ whilst Scots were ‘spreading covid in my region’. Another said they had ‘no thought’ for people currently ill with the virus. 

Source

Hippo Sighting Report

Help us out, we really appreciate it.

Help contribute to our research, and let us know if you have seen similar situations that we may have missed. Our team will review the details you provide and add to our main list once we verify the information.

stay informed

Subscribe and get the updated Hippo List.

Get notified when we release our updated lists by email.

Make a Donation

Thank you for subscribing!

We will send you an email to confirm your details.  Welcome aboard!

Thanks for sending us your report.

We will review your information, and publish in on our list once we validate the details.