Government Must Do All It Can to Deliver Booster Programme Amid Rising Covid Cases, says BMA

The latest ONS data on Covid-19 infections in England, reveals that an estimated 2.3 million people in private households in the UK (3.5% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID as of 3 September 2022. Of those, at least half (46%) reported experiencing long COVID symptoms at least one year after first having (suspected) COVID-19.

Self-reported long COVID was more common in:
• those aged 35 to 69 years
• females
• people living in more deprived areas
• those working in social care
• those aged 16 years and over who were not working and not looking for work
• those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability 

The most common long COVID symptoms continued to be fatigue (69% of those with self-reported long COVID), followed by difficulty concentrating (45%), shortness of breath (42%) and muscle ache (40%). Symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 1.6 million people, or 72% of those with self-reported long COVID. 

Responding Dr Penelope Toff, chair of the public health medicine committee at the BMA, said:
“The steady increase of Covid-19 infections in England is worrying, and shows why the Government must make every effort to ensure the booster vaccine programme is successful in helping keep infection rates low and reduce the numbers requiring hospital care this winter.

“Staff are already seeing an increase of Covid hospital admissions, and are understandably fearful about what the coming months might bring if this latest surge in infection rates cannot be curbed. The latest data from the Government’s Covid dashboard shows that the number of patients admitted to hospital in England increased by a staggering 48% in the seven days up to 26 September compared with the previous seven days. With flu cases also expected to rise as we head into winter, we seriously risk a ‘twindemic’ hitting the NHS, on top of already record-breaking waiting lists, chronic staff shortages, and a growing backlog of care.

“As well as making sure that as many eligible people are able to get their flu vaccine, the Government must do all it can to achieve the same for the Covid booster programme. This means making sure that communities and areas where vaccine uptake is low are targeted, and public health messaging is shared to encourage people to get their booster. It’s also vital that GPs, who have been front and centre of the Covid vaccine roll-outs, continue to be properly supported so that they can deliver this next phase as effectively as possible.

“It’s positive that Government has recently called for the public to wear masks in crowded places, and this is especially important in healthcare settings where infection rates and risk of contracting the virus are high. With cases now on the rise in England, it is important that everything is done to keep staff and patients safe. This includes reinstating routine asymptomatic testing for staff and for patients being admitted to hospital, and ensuring staff have access to FFP3 masks when treating patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

“With longstanding issues already battering the NHS and staff becoming increasingly exhausted, the least the Government can do is make sure that any additional, avoidable pressures this winter are relieved.”

 

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