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Further Covid restrictions in England not needed ‘for now’

Covid restrictions

Further Covid restrictions in England not needed ‘for now’

The return of some Covid restrictions in England is not needed “for now”, the business secretary has insisted, as he denied the government was being complacent in the face of daily infections and deaths rising.

Kwasi Kwarteng also ruled out any further lockdowns, after calls from scientists and health experts for ministers to activate their “plan B” winter measures given the UK now has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world.

Although 223 daily Covid-related UK deaths were reported on Tuesday – higher than on the same day last autumn – Kwarteng said: “I don’t see any cause for changing the course at this minute.”

Downing Street insisted on Tuesday it was not dusting off its ”plan B” for tackling Covid through what Boris Johnson admitted would be a “difficult winter”, which would include reintroducing compulsory face masks in some settings, asking people to work from home and bringing in vaccine passports.

However, the NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, told the Guardian that immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis” where the elective care recovery would be jeopardised.

Kwarteng said the number of Covid-related deaths was not yet causing concern because it was significantly lower than during the third wave.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re looking at data on an hourly basis … For now, we think that the policy is working. Yes, increases of infection rates are being seen. But at the same time we’re very closely monitoring hospitalisations and death rates. Mercifully, they’re much, much lower than they were at the beginning of the year.

“That doesn’t mean we’re being complacent. But we do feel that the vaccination rollout has been successful, it’s allowed us to reopen the economy, it’s allowed people to get back to some semblance of normality.”

Asked if that meant ministers were not planning to introduce restrictions any times soon, Kwarteng gave an emphatic: “No.”

Some MPs fear a similar situation to last year is brewing, when ministers refused to follow recommendations from the government’s scientific advisers to institute early measures to avert more drastic action further down the line. Though the MPs think jabs have undoubtedly greatly contributed to people’s protection, the speed at which they are being offered to children aged 12-15 has led to the UK starting to lag behind other countries, with concerns also about the speed at which immunity could wane.

Kwarteng said on Wednesday he was not sure if people would be able to get a booster Covid vaccine every year, and admitted to Sky News that the slowness of take-up for third shots was “something we really need to address”.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS hospitals, ambulance, community and mental health services, said “hard decisions” may have to be made about which patients to prioritise if Covid cases continue to rise.

She said: “Trust leaders are looking on anxiously as the number of Covid cases, hospital admission rates and patients on ventilators steadily increases.

“It is vital that the government and national NHS leaders keep a close watch on these figures and act quickly and decisively to prevent any surge that could place overwhelming pressure on the NHS, particularly as we head into winter. This should include activating ‘plan B’ in the Covid winter plan, if needed.”

She added: “It is important to recognise that as Covid-related pressures intensify, this could impact on the NHS’s ability to bear down on the care backlog. Trust leaders understand only too well the importance of minimising any delays for planned treatment. But if other pressures continue to escalate they will have to take hard decisions about priorities.”

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Health

WHO announces global resurgence of cholera

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a spike in cholera in several regions of the world, with almost 195,000 cases and over 1,900 deaths reported in 24 countries since the start of this year.

The agency’s Eastern Mediterranean Region reported the highest number of cases, followed by the African Region, the Region of the Americas, the Southeast Asia Region, and the European Region.

WHO, in a statement on Thursday, stated that there are no reported cases in the Western Region, according to its bulletin released on Wednesday.

The UN health agency said it exhausted its global stockpile of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) by March but was able to exceed “the emergency target of five million doses in early June for the first time in 2024.”

Yet, the supply of the vaccine does not equate to its demand.

WHO reported that since January last year, 16 countries requested 92 million doses of OCV – almost double the 49 million produced during that time.

WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners are working together to use resources to find long-term solutions for cholera.

On the positive side of health news, WHO announced on Thursday that Chad successfully eradicated “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem.

The agency applauded the Government and people of Chad for eradicating the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis, (also known as sleeping sickness).

“I congratulate the government and the people of Chad for this achievement.

“It is great to see Chad join the growing group of countries that have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD),” Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said.

In eliminating the disease, Chad joining some 50 others globally that have succeeded in this endeavour.

“The 100-country target is nearer and within reach,” Ghebreyesus, added, referring to the target set out in the road map for address neglected tropical diseases by 2030.

Sleeping sickness can cause flu-like symptoms initially but eventually causing behaviour change, confusion, sleep cycle disturbances or even coma, often leading to death.

Improved access to early diagnosis and treatment, as well as surveillance and response has proven that countries can control and eventually eliminate transmission.

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Health

Cholera outbreak: Lagos fatalities rise to 24 as Govt harps on hygiene

Lagos State has recorded additional three deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities recorded in the cholera outbreak to 24.

Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi disclosed this on his X handle on Friday.

He disclosed that the suspected cases stand at 417, while there are 35 confirmed cases.

Abayomi urged residents to “adhere strictly to personal and environmental hygiene.”

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Dr Kemi Ogunyemi, on Thursday, explained that Lagos Island, Kosofe, and Eti Osa recorded the highest number of the cases.

Ogunyemi was quoted to have revealed the figure while providing an update on the outbreak after meeting with members of the Lagos State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre.

According to Ogunyemi, the rise in cases was anticipated following the Ileya festivities, during which large gatherings occurred.

“Following the last update on the cholera outbreak in Lagos, which reported 350 suspected cases and 15 fatalities, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Dr Kemi Ogunyemi, disclosed that the total number of cholera cases has increased to 401 across Lagos, with Lagos Island, Kosofe, and Eti Osa recording the highest numbers.

“Dr. Ogunyemi revealed this today while providing an update on the outbreak after meeting with members of the Lagos State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre. She added that the death toll has also risen to 21, an increase of six from the previously reported 15 fatalities,” the statement partly read.

The Governor’s aide stated that the government is maintaining rigorous surveillance and monitoring of the situation and implementing planned programs and activities to curb the spread.

“The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the State Ministry of Environment and its agency, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, continues to collect samples of water sources, food, and beverages to identify the source of contamination. We have also intensified our surveillance activities in communities, particularly in affected local government areas, to address the situation head-on.

“We are also working with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education as well as the Ministry of Tertiary Education to ensure all precautions are taken in our schools to protect children and scholars as they return. Residents must, however, remain vigilant, practice good hand hygiene, and participate in community sanitation activities to stop the spread of cholera,” she stated.

She advised that citizens seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, general malaise, and fever, stressing that cholera treatment is provided free of charge at all public health facilities. Daily Trust

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Health

Cholera: Kwara govt takes proactive measure to stem any outbreak

The Kwara Government has alerted healthcare surveillance teams across all the state’s 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) on preparations and preventive measures against any outbreak of cholera.

Mr Gbenga Falade, the Chief Press Secretary in the Kwara Ministry of Health, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Ilorin the Ministry had also commenced awareness campaign.

”This is through jingles on radio stations on the preventive measures against the disease and how people can protect themselves,” he said.

NAN reports that cases of severe gastro-enteritis have been reported in communities around Eti-Osa, Lagos Island, Ikorodu and Kosofe LGAs of Lagos State.

Falade explained that the state ministry has kept itself abreast of news and has taken proactive measures to stem any outbreak.

“The ministry will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its citizens,” he said.

Also speaking on preventive measures, Prof. Tanimola Akande of the Department of Public Health, University of Ilorin, advised Nigerians on proper sanitation in the form of proper faecal waste disposal.

Akande, who is also a Consultant Public Health Physician with University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, (UITH), explained that other preventive measures includes food and water hygiene.

He described cholera as an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by vibrio cholerae.

According to him, it was a potentially life-threatening disease, primarily waterborne.

The expert stated that vaccination remained one of the most cost-effective measures in controlling cholera epidemic across the states.

“Vaccination is one of the cost-effective measures in the control of cholera epidemic.

“Cholera vaccination alone is not used for control of the epidemic of cholera,” he said.

Akande emphasised the need for preventive measures, including adequate food hygiene and water supply together with sanitation.

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