London hospitals facing ‘tsunami’ of virus patients: NHS official

According to the latest figures, 463 people have died from the virus and more than 9,500 people have been infected. London makes up a third of the UK total. (AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2020

London hospitals facing ‘tsunami’ of virus patients: NHS official

  • London hospitals had seen an ‘explosion of demand... in seriously ill patients’
  • ‘We’re now seeing 30, 40 and even some places 50 percent sickness rates’

LONDON: Hospitals in the British capital are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, the head of an organization representing bosses in the state-run National Health Service said on Thursday.
The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, told BBC radio that London hospitals had seen an “explosion of demand... in seriously ill patients,” likening it to a “continuous tsunami,” with numbers predicted to surge in the next fortnight.
“They talk about wave, after wave after wave,” he said. “The word that’s often used to me is a sort of continuous tsunami.”
According to the latest figures, 463 people have died from the virus and more than 9,500 people have been infected. London makes up a third of the UK total.
The government is opening a temporary 4,000-bed hospital at an exhibition center in London next week to treat patients with the virus.
British media reported 10 similar facilities could be set up around the country.
Hopson said the problem of dealing with the increased number of patients was exacerbated by the “unprecedented absence rate” of medical staff.
“We’re now seeing 30, 40 and even some places 50 percent sickness rates,” he said, adding that there was also a “real problem” with ventilator capacity in hospitals.
His comments came as the government announced it had ordered 10,000 emergency ventilators to help tackle the pandemic from billionaire entrepreneur James Dyson.
In an email to staff, the inventor said his company designed the “CoVent” at the request of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and promised to donate 5,000 to the international relief effort.
Dyson said teams of engineers had been working on the design since receiving the call 10 days ago.
“We have received an initial order of 10,000 units from the UK Government, which we will supply on an open-book basis,” he said.
“We are also looking at ways of making it available internationally.”
The company is now waiting for the design to receive regulatory approval so manufacturing can commence.


UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

Updated 08 April 2020

UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

  • Britain’s leader was in "good spirits,” his spokesman said on Wednesday
  • The UK was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections

LONDON: Britain’s government sought Wednesday to keep a grip on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a third day in the intensive care unit of a London hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab chaired a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 crisis committee while the number of virus-related deaths reported in the UK approached the levels seen in the worst-hit European nations, Italy and Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the British leader was in "good spirits".
"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas' hospital. He is in good spirits," the spokesman told reporters.
The country’s confirmed death toll reached 6,159 as of Tuesday, an increase of 786 from 24 hours earlier. That was the biggest daily leap to date, although the deaths reported Tuesday occurred over several days.
The virus has hit people from all walks of life — including Johnson, the first world leader known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year-old prime minister was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he tested positive for the virus.
He was moved to the ICU on Monday night after his condition deteriorated. 
Johnson’s illness has unleashed a wave of sympathy for the prime minister, including from his political opponents. It has also heightened public unease about the government’s response to the outbreak, which faced criticism even with the energetic Johnson at the helm.
Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically the number of individuals tested for the virus.
Britain has no official post of deputy or acting prime minister, but Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to temporarily take over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic.
But Raab’s authority is limited. He can’t fire Cabinet ministers or senior officials, and he won’t hold the prime minister’s weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In the British political system, the prime minister’s power lies less in the role’s specific responsibilities — which are relatively few — than in the leader’s political capital and authority as “first among equals” in the Cabinet.
That’s especially true in Johnson’s government, which is made up of relatively inexperienced ministers appointed by a prime minister with a big personality and a hefty personal mandate from a resounding election victory in December.
In Johnson’s absence, it’s unclear who would decide whether to ease nationwide lockdown measures the British government imposed on March 23 in response the worldwide pandemic. The initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.
“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”
Meanwhile, officials are watching anxiously to see whether Britain’s hospitals can cope when the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaches its peak. Before the outbreak, the UK had about 5,000 intensive care beds, and the government has been scrambling to increase that capacity.
The Nightingale Hospital — a temporary facility for coronavirus patients built in nine days at London’s vast ExCel conference center — admitted its first patients on Wednesday. It can accommodate 4,000 beds, if needed. even other temporary hospitals are being built around the country.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is the epicenter of Britain’s outbreak, had one-quarter of its existing hospital beds still available, as well as the new Nightingale hospital.
“It demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus,” he said.