Camden concerns over Omicron variant knock-on effects
- Credit: PA
A Camden health watchdog has raised concerns that the Omicron variant may have a lasting affect on planned treatments, surgeries and access to health and care services.
Stephen Heard, director of Healthwatch Camden, said that any prolonged disruption the new Covid variant brings may mean patients may not get seen at all.
He added: "It’s imperative that a cautious balance is found between mitigating the effects of the omicron variant whilst continuing to maintain the invaluable service of local health and care providers.
"Many are concerned that appointments may be changed, postponed or they may not be able to get seen at all, as a result of heightened measures."
At the time of going to press, Omicron was expected to become the dominant variant in England.
In the seven days up December 14, there had been three deaths and 1,876 people in Camden had tested positive – up 68.6% on the previous week.
The Royal Free Hospital, which actually saw a reduction in patients admitted in the week up December 5, says on its website that appointments are currently continuing as normal.
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People are being told to attend out-patient appointments or planned procedures unless they hear otherwise.
The Whittington Hospital says that while people should not come to the hospital "unless it is absolutely necessary", patients should attend all scheduled appointments.
The government has introduced new Covid19 restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
On Tuesday, Professor Chris Whitty warned a “significant increase in hospitalisations” is coming from Omicron, with Boris Johnson telling ministers to expect a “huge spike” in infections.
The stark messages delivered to the cabinet came as almost 60,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported, the highest total since January 9, driven by the surge in the highly-transmissible variant.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs there was a “very real risk” that the exponential rise of Omicron cases could translate into a rise in hospital admissions that “threatens to overwhelm the NHS”.
Leading scientist Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, indicated the NHS could be overwhelmed next month as uncertainties remain over the impact of Omicron.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he is worried “we could see numbers of people being admitted to hospital getting very large” if infections continue to rise and spill into older age groups.
Plan B measures have come into force, with the government winning the backing of the Commons on Tuesday, despite significant numbers of Tory MPs rebelling.
It is now mandatory for nightclubs and large venues to check the Covid status of visitors over 18.
People will have to show proof of being double-vaccinated or of a negative Covid test.
This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoor or outdoor, such as sports stadiums.
Face coverings have also been made compulsory in most indoor public venues such as shops, theatres, cinemas and places of worship, as well as on public transport.
People have also been told to work from home if they can.
Boris Johnson has also ramped up the booster jab campaign with a new target meaning people 18 and over will be able to get their third jabs from this week.
The mayor of London is calling on the government to do more to support businesses who are seeing a significant drop in takings due to fears around the new variant.
Central London retail, hospitality and cultural businesses are already seeing the effects of people taking extra precautions, with takings particularly affected by office workers being told to stay at home.
Sadiq Khan said: "Londoners can do their bit by ensuring they get vaccinated and boosted, and safely enjoy the best our city has to offer this Christmas by following the rules, including taking lateral flow tests and wearing a face mask."
Anyone suffering any Covid19 symptoms - high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss/change to your sense of smell or taste, is asked to stay at home and book a PCR test by calling 119 or visiting the government website at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test