UK’s Javid warns hospital backlog could soar to 13m

Members of the public queue to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine outside a temporary vaccination centre set up a the Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal football club, in north London on June 25, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

MOSCOW / SANTIAGO – Hospital waiting lists in England could more than double to 13 million people in the coming months due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions, Britain’s new health secretary warned.

Sajid Javid told the Sunday Telegraph that some people who needed treatment, including for cancer checks and mental health problems, hadn’t turned up for fear of catching the virus or a “very British” attitude of not wanting to overburden health-care workers.

He said he was “confident” that virtually all of England’s remaining restrictions would be lifted as planned on July 19, despite concerns from some scientists over rising infection rates.

The number of patients waiting for NHS treatment reached a record 5.3 million at the end of May; Javid said he was “shocked” to be told by scientists it could go as high as 13 million.

“It’s going to be one of my top priorities to deal with because we can’t have that,” he told the newspaper in his first newspaper interview since being appointed as health secretary in June.

Britain’s biggest business lobby called on the government to drop self-isolation rules when other Covid restrictions end, seeking to inject confidence into a push to get workers back to offices.

A work-from-home recommendation expires July 19, but self-isolation rules for fully vaccinated contacts of those who have tested positive for the coronavirus are set to be maintained until Aug 16.

France

France must “live with the virus” rather than count on a new lockdown to contain the spread of a new variant of COVID-19, a key ally of President Emmanuel Macron said ahead of a presidential address.

The country could reintroduce limits on the number of people allowed in bars, restaurants in others venue and extend the use of the so-called “health pass,” junior minister for European affairs Clement Beaune said on Europe 1 radio Sunday.

“We must live with the virus, and this means we don’t close everything again and positions aren’t as hard as they used to be, because we have the vaccine,” Beaune said.

In his speech on Monday evening, Macron is expected to ring the alarm about the rapid spread of the more contagious delta variant in France. He’s also expected to outline his priorities for the rest of his mandate, including whether he’ll go ahead with his controversial pension reform proposal before his term ends in May 2022.

Delaying an overhaul of pensions by six months “wouldn’t be such a big deal,” Beaune said. “When and where — this is the president’s decision and it will depend on the health situation.”

Beaune called the recent setback of Macron’s party in regional elections last month a “big defeat” but said it was “not a referendum on the pension reform.”

As more people are vaccinated, from September some COVID-19 tests may not be reimbursed, and more activities may be conditioned on having a pass that proves a person has tested negative or been immunized, he said.

Beaune also warned that the situation was “worrying” in Spain and Portugal given the spread of the new variant, and urged Malta to rescind its decision to close its borders to travelers who aren’t fully vaccinated.

Russia 

Russia reported 25,033 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 5,410 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,783,333.

The government coronavirus task force said 749 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 143,002.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate death toll. It said on Friday it had recorded around 290,000 deaths related to COVID-19 between April 2020 and May this year.

Brazil 

Brazil registered 1,205 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 532,893, the health ministry said Saturday.

As many as 48,504 new cases were detected, taking the total caseload to 19,069,003, the ministry said.

Brazil currently has the world's second-highest pandemic death toll, after the United States, and the third-largest caseload, after the United States and India.

The South American country, which is experiencing a new wave of infections with hospitals overwhelmed by patients, has a mortality rate of 253 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, said the ministry.

As of Saturday, 112.9 million people in Brazil have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and over 29.9 million people have been fully vaccinated. Enditem

Portugul

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet on Saturday that 70 percent of the country’s adult population has now been given at least one dose of a vaccine, earlier than planned.

The government accelerated its vaccination campaign after the country started reporting a new increase in cases during June in some regions including Lisbon, with a high incidence of the delta variant.

Belgium

A 90-year-old woman died after becoming infected with two different strains of COVID-19, revealing another risk in the fight against the disease, Belgian researchers found.

In the first peer-reviewed analysis of an infection with multiple strains, scientists found the woman had contracted both the alpha variant, which first surfaced in the UK, and the beta strain, first found in South Africa. The infections probably came from separate people, according to a report published Saturday and presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.

The woman was admitted to a Belgian hospital in March after a number of falls, and tested positive for COVID-19 the same day. She lived alone, receiving nursing care at home, and hadn’t been vaccinated. Her respiratory symptoms rapidly worsened and she died five days later. When her respiratory samples were tested for variants of concern, both strains were found in two tests. The researchers couldn’t say whether the co-infection played a role in her rapid deterioration.

The idea of multiple infections isn’t completely new. In January, Brazilian scientists reported two cases of Covid-19 co-infection, but the study hasn’t yet been released in a scientific journal. Researchers have also previously found evidence of people becoming infected with multiple strains of influenza. The cases suggest co-infection might be more common than currently known.

Tanzania

Tanzania said it now has 408 new cases of Covid-19 patients, as the East African nation takes another step in confronting the issue after months of denying the pandemic was a problem.

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said at an event to promote the public wearing of masks in the capital Dodoma that “284 of the patients were hospitalized on oxygen therapy as of July 8.”

The latest data represents a 300 percent increase from a figure of around 100 new cases announced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan on June 28.

Tanzania needs to publish data on the spread of Covid-19 before getting approval for a more than $570 million emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund, an official from the Washington-based lender said last month.

Reporting numbers on coronavirus infections and deaths would be an about turn for the government that hasn’t done so since May last year when then-President John Magufuli’s administration played down the threat from the disease.

Since his death in March, new leader Hassan has signaled a shift in policy by appointing an advisory team on how to tackle the pandemic and started a process to procure vaccines.

US

US vaccinations have plunged to levels before Joe Biden was sworn in as president, despite the spread of the delta variant that is fueling a new rise in infections. The US recorded 599,000 vaccinations on Saturday, the lowest level since early January, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Daily vaccinations peaked in mid-April at almost 4 million.

Biden missed his goal of administering at least one does of vaccine to 70 percent of adults in the US by July 4. That number is now 67.5 percent, according to the CDC. The administration is focusing on communities hardest-hit by the delta variant, also largely the pockets in the US that are least vaccinated. It has begun deploying health officials to support local “trusted messengers” to go door-to-door to encourage vaccines.

US cases remain elevated, as the delta variant was declared the nation’s dominant strain and is spreading largely in areas with low vaccination rates. Weekly cases were above 100,000 for the second consecutive week, the most since early June. Slightly more than 23,000 new cases were reported on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

EU

Enough COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to EU member states to be able to fully vaccinate at least 70 percent of adults there in July, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday.

About 500 million vaccine doses will have been distributed across the bloc by Sunday, she added. Just over 53 percent of the population have received at least one dose and almost 39 percent are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Argentina

Argentina registered on Saturday 11,561 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 4,639,098, the Ministry of Health said.

Another 354 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 98,501.

The number of patients in intensive care units reached 5,427, with a bed occupancy rate of 63.1 percent nationwide and 60.9 percent in Buenos Aires and its periphery.

So far, 24,616,918 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been applied since the country's vaccination drive was launched at the end of December 2020.

Chile

Chile registered 2,696 new cases and 131 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, for a total of 1,585,160 infections and 33,767 deaths, the Ministry of Health reported Saturday.

In its statement, the ministry stated that COVID-19 cases have decreased by 22 percent in the last seven days, a period in which 15 of the 16 regions of Chile saw a decrease in the number of infections.

A total of 2,447 people are currently hospitalized in intensive care units, with 1,999 on ventilators.

The decrease in cases of COVID-19 in Chile has led to the rolling back of lockdown measures and the reopening of commercial establishments.

Tunisia

Tunisian Health Ministry on Saturday reported 9,286 COVID-19 cases, raising the tally in the North African country to 491,021.

The death toll from the virus rose by 194 to 16,244 in Tunisia, while the total number of recoveries reached 388,017, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Tunisia reached 4,374, including 631 in intensive care units, it said.

A total of 1,922,854 lab tests have been carried out in Tunisia so far, according to the ministry.

Cuba

Cuba reported 31 deaths and 6,750 cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,490 and the number of infections to 231,568, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday.

Francisco Duran, the ministry's director of hygiene and epidemiology, said that there are 28,205 active cases currently in the country, the highest number on record.

The province of Matanzas, which reported 2,657 new cases, continues to be the epicenter of the outbreak, with an incidence rate of 2,248.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

In light of a surge in cases across the country, the government has adopted new preventive measures such as the strengthening of epidemiological surveillance and the implementation of more rigorous international sanitary controls.