People need to follow guidance on hand washing, social distancing and face coverings to stop the “entirely preventable” spread of coronavirus, a senior medic has warned.
Adrian Boyle, vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said staff are tired, feel helpless and at risk of burnout.
He told the PA news agency the idea that coronavirus cannot be controlled just “doesn’t wash”.
Dr Boyle added: “We are worried about staff burnout, staff are tired, they have worked really hard over the summer, they have put up with a lot of disruption.
“This time people are frustrated, this is now an entirely preventable disease, we know what we did in spring made a lot of this go away. There’s also now a vaccine.
“The idea that we are dealing with something that can’t be controlled doesn’t wash, this is a preventable disease and we need to be preventing it.”
Dr Boyle said washing hands, wearing face coverings and keeping your distance from others stops the spread of the infection, and he also thanked people for not partying on New Year’s Eve.
He added: “There are a lot of things we could be doing as a society to stop this spreading and a lot of it is simple stuff around washing your hands, keeping your distance, wearing a face covering.
“In the NHS we need to thank all those people who gave up their New Year’s Eve parties to stay at home, which was the vast majority.”
His echoed comments from NHS England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May, who thanked people for staying at home and celebrating the start of 2021 safely.
She tweeted: “Thank you 2 everyone who stayed home last night & saw New Year in safely. [sic]
“Sadly, a small number of people still didn’t follow the rules. Reckless & irresponsible behaviour puts themselves & others in danger & will inevitably add 2 pressure on our staff at this tough time #teamCNO.”
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said New Year’s Eve was “quite quiet” in London, where Tier 4 restrictions mean most places are closed.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think the public have really cottoned on that this is really serious, the position that we are in, and we did not see the numbers we thought we would.”
Meanwhile, the Government said there had been a further 53,285 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Friday, with another 613 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
This was down from a new record high of 55,892 cases reported on New Year’s Eve – the highest since mass testing began in late May.
NHS England on Friday said that a further 420 people who tested positive for coronavirus had died in hospital in England, including an eight-year-old child.
All except 12, aged between 55 and 90, had known underlying health conditions, it added.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on fatalities that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 90,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
More than a million people have now received their first coronavirus vaccination, and a joint statement from England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the public will “understand” and “thank” them for a plan to give first jabs as a priority, delaying the follow-up vaccination for others.
The deployment of the newly-approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will begin on Monday, almost a month after the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, but second doses of either will now take place within 12 weeks rather than 21 days as initially planned.
Professor David Salisbury, a former director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said he backs the revised Covid-19 vaccine strategy.
The associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course I accept it is inconvenient and isn’t helpful to have to change appointments and explain to people (about the delay in receiving a second jab), but the reason for doing this is to save lives.
“We know how many have been vaccinated, and across the whole country it isn’t all that many, but every time we give a second dose right now, we are holding that back from someone who is likely, if they get coronavirus, to die, and much more likely to die than somebody who has already had a single dose.”
Figures published on New Year’s Eve show just less than a third of acute trusts have more Covid-19 patients than at any point since the pandemic began, with union leaders warning about staff burnout, soaring sickness levels and “intolerable” pressures.
The situation is dire in Northern Ireland, where bed occupancy in the health service is now at 100%, with ambulance crews braced for long delays.
All of mainland Scotland and Skye remained under the highest coronavirus restrictions as 2021 began.
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