Britain could swing back to its ‘protect the NHS’ Covid policy if the latest spike in cases and hospital admissions impedes on the health service’s ability to treat other conditions, a Government minister admitted today.
Lord Syed Kamall, a junior health minister, said the extortionate free lateral flow testing scheme may return as he raised the prospect of mandatory face masks also making a comeback. Both measures were axed in April as part of No10’s ‘living with Covid’ plan.
He told the House of Lords today: ‘They [health officials] are still focusing on the backlog. If it gets to a point where it is affecting the backlog then clearly measures may well have to be introduced.’
Individual hospitals have already started to reintroduce face masks and social distancing in corridors and waiting rooms as Covid hospital admissions near an 18-month high, in the first sign of curbs creeping back into normal life.
There were 1,911 Covid admissions in England on July 4 – the latest date with data – and at current pace they are due to rise further in the coming days. If average daily admissions rise above 2,100 it will mark the highest number since the peak of the second wave in January 2021 – when there were more than 4,000.
But only a third of patients are primarily sick with Covid, which suggests rising admissions are a symptom of high infection rates rather than severe disease.
The majority (64 per cent) are known as ‘incidental’ cases — patients who went to hospital for a different reason but happened to test positive.