UK scrambles for hospital beds as virus surges

UK scrambles for hospital beds as virus surges
A healthcare worker wearing PPE cleans equipment after a patient arrived in an ambulance outside the Emergency Department of St Thomas' Hospital in London on January 3, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2021

UK scrambles for hospital beds as virus surges

UK scrambles for hospital beds as virus surges
  • The sharp rise has forced hospital bosses to consider shifting some inpatients to beds in nursing homes or care homes, said the head of NHS Providers
  • England entered a strict lockdown on Tuesday with schools and non-essential shops closed for at least six weeks

LONDON: Hospital chiefs in England raced to secure hospital beds on Thursday as the surge in coronavirus cases risked overwhelming the system, health care providers and medics said.
A leaked briefing suggested that even in a relatively positive scenario, London’s hospitals could be beyond capacity in less than two weeks.
The UK on Thursday recorded another 1,162 deaths within 28 days of a positive test — the second highest toll since the peak of the first wave in April last year.
There were more than 52,000 new cases in 24 hours, taking the overall number of infections to nearly 2.9 million.
Cases are growing quickly outside southeast England, where clusters of a new highly infectious strain of the virus were first identified.
Over 30,000 people were in UK hospitals with the virus, more than at the peak of the first wave, heaping pressures on health care staff.
“Staff are exhausted,” said Lindsey Izard, matron of the general intensive care unit at St. George’s Hospital in London.
“The worry is that we haven’t probably reached the peak yet.”
The sharp rise has forced hospital bosses to consider shifting some inpatients to beds in nursing homes or care homes, said the head of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals in England.
“We’ve seen 5,000 new patients in hospital beds with Covid-19 over the past week — that’s 10 full hospitals’ worth of Covid patients... so it’s a really big challenge,” Chris Hopson told BBC radio.
Hospital chiefs “know there is some spare capacity in the care and nursing home sector and they’re in the middle of conversation with care and nursing home colleagues to see if they can access that capacity,” he added.
In the face of the mounting crisis, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care on Thursday announced two potentially “live-saving” Covid treatments would be made available for patients in intensive care.
The two drugs — tocilizumab and sarilumab — have been shown to reduce risk of death by 24 percent for critically ill patients and cut the time spent in intensive care by up to 10 days, the government said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the deployment of the drugs a “landmark development,” saying the treatments, normally used for rheumatoid arthritis, would save hundreds of lives.
England entered a strict lockdown on Tuesday with schools and non-essential shops closed for at least six weeks after previous measures failed to halt a steep rise in cases.
Britain has seen more than 78,500 deaths in the outbreak and is banking on the roll-out of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines to halt the spread of the virus.
More than 1.3 million have already received jabs. The government aims to have inoculated 13 million of the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
Speaking to a parliamentary select committee, Hancock said he expected hospitalization levels and Covid deaths to fall as the vaccine program continued.
“The number of deaths in this country will fall for any given number of cases once the vaccine is rolled out to the vulnerable groups,” he said.
HSJ, a website for health care professionals, on Wednesday leaked a briefing by the head of NHS London, Vin Diwakar, saying the capital could be short of nearly 1,500 beds for general and acute patients by January 19.
In the worst-case scenario, the shortfall could be 4,400 beds, it said.
Hospital capacity is at risk unless people knuckle down to anti-virus lockdown rules, said Rupert Pearse, a professor of intensive care medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, who works at the Royal London Hospital.
Asked by the BBC whether he believed the NHS could be overwhelmed in two weeks, he said: “I never thought in my entire career that I would say something like this but yes, I do.
“Unless we take the lockdown seriously the impact on health care for the whole country could be catastrophic and I don’t say those words lightly,” he added.


6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir
Updated 8 sec ago

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir
  • Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir
  • Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley
SRINAGAR, India: Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.
The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.
Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”
In a first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.
An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.
Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.
Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.
Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.
Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.
On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gunbattle with militants this year in contiguous forested area of Surankote town.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 
Updated 46 min 5 sec ago

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

LONDON: A 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder over the fatal stabbing of an Afghan teenager in London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Hazrat Wali, 18, succumbed to his injuries in hospital on Tuesday after being stabbed that afternoon. 

He reportedly arrived in Britain two years ago as a refugee and attended London’s Richmond-upon-Thames College. 

The 16-year-old is expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court. The police specialist crime command are investigating the murder. 


Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians
Updated 16 October 2021

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians
  • Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that ‘crimes’ were committed on the night of October 17, 1961
  • Macron acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, ‘their bodies thrown into the River Seine’ and paid tribute to the memory of the victims

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday condemned as “inexcusable” a deadly crackdown by Paris police on a 1961 protest by Algerians whose scale was a taboo covered up for decades by French authorities.
Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that “crimes” were committed on the night of October 17, 1961 under the command of the notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon.
He acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, “their bodies thrown into the River Seine” and paid tribute to the memory of the victims.
The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.
Macron “recognized the facts: that the crimes committed that night under Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic,” the Elysee said.
“This tragedy was long hushed-up, denied or concealed,” it added.
Macron, the first French president to attend a memorial ceremony for those killed, observed a minute of silence in their memory at the Bezons bridge over the Seine on the outskirts of Paris where the protest started.
His comments that crimes were committed went further than predecessor Francois Hollande, who acknowledged in 2012 that the protesting Algerians had been “killed during a bloody repression.”
However, as expected, he did not issue a formal apology. He also did not give a public speech, with the Elysee issuing only the written statement.
Papon was in the 1980s revealed to have been a collaborator with the occupying Nazis in World War II and complicit in the deportation of Jews. He was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.


Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack
Updated 16 October 2021

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack
  • Espen Andersen Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived
  • While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person

KONGSBERG, Norway: A bow-and-arrow attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.
Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalized, has confessed to the Wednesday killings in police questioning.
He was in custody in a medical facility on Friday pending a psychiatric evaluation.
“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters on Friday.
Police were however keeping other possibilities open, and have investigated a range of motives including “anger, revenge, impulse, extremism, illness and provocation,” Omholt said.
The psychiatric evaluation, which could take several months, is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.
“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer Fredrik Neumann said, referring to his client’s mental health.
“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told the Norwegian newspaper VG.
Omholt said Friday that Brathen had admitted to the acts but did not admit guilt.
While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person.
“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, said Thursday.
“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time.”
Four women and one man were killed and three people injured in the attack in the town of Kongsberg, and police said a bow and arrows and two other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.
Brathan was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway’s anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why. According to public broadcaster NRK, the first warning was in 2015.
“There were fears linked to radicalization previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters.
Those reports dated to last year or earlier, and police said they had followed up at the time.
Norwegian media reported that in 2018 the PST had warned that he could commit “a small-scale attack.”
It also said that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding his parents after threatening to kill his father, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.
Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted on social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.
Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen’s neighbors described him as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen “alone.”
“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbor told AFP.
Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.
Flowers and candles were placed in front of the various crime scenes in Kongsberg, a town of 25,000 people still reeling from the attack.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who took office on Thursday following elections last month, visited the town on Friday.
“We stand together when crisis strikes. For those of who have political responsibility, the safety of our citizens is the most important thing,” he said in a speech.
Svein Westad, a 75-year-old pensioner wandered aimlessly on Hyttegata street, where two of his neighbors and close friends were killed in their homes.
“I’m totally broken into pieces, I cannot say anything more than that. I will never get over this,” he told AFP.
“They should have caught him immediately,” he said, referring to criticism against the police for arresting Brathen more than 30 minutes after the first reports came in.
Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.


UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death
Updated 16 October 2021

UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death
LEIGH-ON-SEA: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday visited the church where lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death a day earlier in what police say they are treating as a terrorist attack.
Amess, 69, from Johnson's Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly in the attack at about midday on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, during a meeting with constituents.
Johnson, interior minister Priti Patel, and leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer were among those to lay flowers in tribute to Amess at the scene of the murder.
Johnson and Starmer stood side by side in a moment of silence before leaving. On Friday, Johnson said Britain had lost a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
In a statement early on Saturday, police said the early investigation had revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamic extremism.
Police arrested a 25-year-old British man at the scene on suspicion of murder, adding it is believed he acted alone.
Amess in the second lawmaker in little over five years to be murdered while out meeting constituents, after Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in June 2016, a few days before Britain voted to leave the European Union.