Government urged to 'pause' new restrictions as cases of Covid caught in hospital soar
Those who tested positive for the first time a week or more after arriving are believed to have caught the virus at the hospital - Shutterstock
Imposing more new coronavirus restrictions would be "too hasty," scientists said after figures showed that up to a quarter of patients currently hospitalized with Covid-19 have caught the virus after admission.
Leading statisticians urged the government to "pause" after showing that a significant proportion of escalating hospital cases were due to Covid's poor security within trusts.
Across England, 18 percent of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 tested positive for the virus for the first time seven days or more after admission. At 24 percent, the share was highest in the northwest, as further blocking measures are imminent.
Matt Hancock, the Minister of Health, cited the rising number of Covid-19 patients in the area when speaking about possible new restrictions this week.
Amid growing concerns, the NHS failed to learn from the first wave of the pandemic about high transmission rates in hospitals.
The percentage of Probably Healthcare Related Infections (HCAIs) appears to be just as bad, if not worse, than what was recorded during the height of the first wave. This despite an order from Sir Simon Stevens, the managing director of NHS England, to hospitals to improve their Covid security in June.
Sir Simon Stevens urged hospitals to step up Covid security measures this summer - Victoria Jones / PA
Professor Carl Heneghan, who led the new analysis at Oxford University, said many of the new hospital cases could be elderly people admitted for other medical conditions.
"I think this shows that it is too early and too hasty to take more restrictive measures. We have already taken a lot of measures," he told The Telegraph. "Once you start digging into the data, it is not as easy as increasing cases or increasing hospital admissions. This shows that there is a significant problem with health-acquired infections."
Prof. Heneghan's analysis is based on a new data stream published by the NHS that indicates when inpatient hospital patients tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time - either before admission, at admission, or seven days or more after admission .
Those who tested positive for the first time a week or more after arriving are believed to have caught the virus in the hospital.
Since September 15 - the first day since spring when more than 150 patients were admitted - and September 30, there have been only three days when hospital-acquired cases accounted for 10 percent or more of in-patient Covid cases.
However, the share remained above 10 percent from September 30 to October 6.
"This shows that we should be thoughtful and analytical," said Prof. Heneghan. "We should wait and see what happens in the next week. We may find that the measures we have taken are having an impact, but we run the risk of losing the trust of the people if we move quickly to further action."
A three-stage "traffic light system" for local locks is expected to be announced shortly. Much of the north could face further restrictions, including closings of pubs and restaurants and a ban on overnight stays.
On Wednesday, Mr Hancock described this week as "a dangerous moment in the course of the pandemic".
"I am very concerned about the increase in cases, particularly in the north-west and north-east of England as well as parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of Yorkshire," said the Health Minister.
An NHS spokesman said: "As ONS and other data conclusively show, the main driver of rising Covid infections and hospital stays in the Northwest is increased community transmission, not nosocomial acquisition.
"Hospitals are asked to strictly follow regularly updated guidelines on infection prevention and control, and it is not surprising that the number of nosocomias tends to track the increase in prevalence in the local community."
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