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Omicron to infect half of Europe in weeks, deputy chief medical officer quits and calls for delay to

Study finds Covid measures resulted in decrease in childhood infections

A study has found that only fifteen children were hospitalised with measles during the first year of the pandemic compared to around 150 in a normal year.

This “dramatic” fall in common childhood infections including meningitis, flu, tonsillitis and pneumonia, have been linked to measures designed to tackle Covid and the authors of the study are calling for lessons to be learnt and some measures to remain in place beyond the pandemic to help vulnerable children. Some children with pre-existing conditions such as asthma were also “substantially protected” from other infections – which could have potentially been “life-threatening”.

The study concluded that “‘Further evaluation of non-pharmacological interventions that could be sustained beyond the pandemic is required to inform policy makers about potential strategies, especially during winter months, to minimise the burden on health systems and protect vulnerable children,”

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

WHO says half of Europe to be infected with Omicron within weeks

The World Health Organisation has warned that half of Europe will have caught the Omicron Covid variant within the next six to eight weeks. Dr Hans Kluge said a “west-to-east tidal wave” of Omicron was sweeping across the region, on top of a surge in the Delta variant.

Recent studies suggest that Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants. But Omicron is still highly contagious and can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated. The record number of people catching it has left health systems under severe strain.

Dr Kluge told a news conference “Today the Omicron variant represents a new west-to-east tidal wave, sweeping across the region on top of the Delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021… more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Jonathan Van-Tam quits as England deputy chief medical officer

It has been announced that Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer is set to leave his role. Van-Tam will continue to work for the government until the end of March.

Sajid Javid said it had been an “honour” to work with Van-Tam, who has been on secondment to the Department of Health and Social Care from the University of Nottingham for the last few years.

The health secretary tweeted: “It has been an honour to work with JVT and I am hugely grateful for his advice & the vital role he has played in our vaccination programme.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The most senior nurses and midwives in the country have called for the government to delay its deadline for all NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid, over fears it could “backfire”. Currently around 6 per cent of healthcare workers are yet to be vaccinated and senior NHS sources say this is unlikely to change.

From 1 April 2022 all NHS staff will be required by law to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning all those who have yet to have a first dose will need to have it by February. The government has previously predicted the NHS could lose up to 73,000 staff following the jab deadline and, in an assessment published in December, warned patient care could be impacted.

In a statement Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the RCN, said: “Nothing matters more to a nurse than caring for their patients safely. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do that…We are calling on the government to recognise this risk and delay a move which by its own calculations looks to backfire. To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.”

Read the full story in The Independent.


Quote of the week

A US man has become the first person in the world to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig. The surgery is being hailed by many as a medical breakthrough that could shorten transplant waiting times and change the lives of many patients. Dr Robert Montgomery who led the experiment said:

“This is a truly remarkable breakthrough… As a heart transplant recipient, myself with a genetic heart disorder, I am thrilled by this news and the hope it gives to my family and other patients who will eventually be saved by this breakthrough.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

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