UK doctors warn of looming breaking point as omicron spreads | WGN 720 radio

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LONDON (AP) – Britain’s leading nurses union warned on Monday that the exhaustion and increase in coronavirus cases among medical staff was pushing them to breaking point, adding to pressure on the government for further restrictions to be made reduce the record number of infections caused by the omicron variant.

Patricia Marquis, England director of the Royal College of Nursing union, said the situation over the next few weeks looked “very grim” as increasing sickness absences and self-isolation hit hospitals struggling to clear a backlog of postponed procedures and treating normal winter illnesses alongside coronavirus cases.

“In many places they are already under immense stress and pressure, and so they are starting to fall ill themselves with COVID, but also mental and physical exhaustion,” she told the BBC. “So the staff are now looking forward thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s coming up? “”

After promising repeatedly that there will be no repeat of the Christmas marred by last year’s lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is faced with an agonizing choice: wipe out the holiday plans of millions or dealing with a tidal wave of cases and disruptions.

Many governments in Europe and the United States face similar dilemmas over how difficult it is to tackle omicron, which appears to be more transmissible than the previous delta variant which itself has resulted in outbreaks in many regions. of the world. Early evidence suggests that omicron may also produce less severe disease – although scientists warn it’s too early to tell – and that it may better escape vaccine protection.

Even though it usually causes fewer severe cases, omicron could still overwhelm healthcare systems due to the sheer number of infections.

But many political leaders are reluctant to impose the strict measures they resorted to earlier in the pandemic – often because they promised their people that vaccines would offer a way out of such restrictions and that it can be politically. untenable to impose them again.

In the United States, the prospect of a winter chilled by a wave of coronavirus infections is a serious reversal from the optimism projected by President Joe Biden about 10 months ago, when he suggested that the country would have essentially returned to normal by Christmas. France is desperately trying to avoid a new lockdown that would hurt the economy and darken President Emmanuel Macron’s expected re-election campaign.

Meanwhile, Johnson, whose authority has been hammered by weeks of political scandals, is caught between calls from science advisers for new limits on social interactions and fierce opposition within his Conservative Party to such restrictions.

Earlier this month, Johnson’s government reinstated rules requiring face masks in stores and ordered people to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test before entering nightclubs and the like crowded places. But many scientists say harder action is needed.

British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Monday he could not “make firm and swift guarantees” that further restrictions would not be announced this week.

Government ministers are discussing several options, ranging from non-binding guidelines for people to limit festive gatherings, to mandatory social distancing and curfews for bars and restaurants.

The speed of omicron’s spread in the UK, where cases are doubling roughly every other day, is decimating the economy during the busy pre-Christmas period. Busy theaters and restaurants are usually affected by cancellations. Some restaurants and pubs have closed until after the holidays because many employees are sick or self-isolating. The Natural History Museum, one of London’s top attractions, said on Monday it was closing for a week due to “a lack of indoor staff.”

The hospitality industry is urging the government to offer financial support, as it did earlier in the pandemic with grants, loans and a program that paid the salaries of millions of workers on leave. Those programs were cut after Britain lifted restrictions this summer.

The Dutch government on Sunday began a strict national lockdown to curb the sharp rise in infections, at least partially attributed to the omicron variant. But other European countries have opted for something less.

France and Germany have barred entry to most British travelers. Ireland has imposed an 8 p.m. curfew in pubs and bars and limited participation in indoor and outdoor events.

These countries are watching with suspicion the United Kingdom, which is so far among the places most affected by the omicron variant.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK have increased by 50% in one week. On Sunday, the government reported 82,886 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in one day. With more than 147,000 deaths, Britain has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe after Russia.

Hospitalizations are rising much more slowly, but medical groups are warning hospitals are already under pressure in London, the hardest hit so far by the omicron wave.

The British Medical Association has warned that nearly 50,000 doctors, nurses and other National Health Service staff in England could be sick with COVID-19 by Christmas Day, unless additional measures are introduced.

Doctors’ time and energy are also spent delivering vaccine boosters, in line with early data that the extra shot helps protect against the variant. Johnson has set a goal of offering everyone 18 and over a booster by the end of December. More than 900,000 booster shots were given on Sunday, as football stadiums, shopping malls and cathedrals were turned into temporary vaccination clinics.

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Follow all of AP’s stories about the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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