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New Covid variant ‘running rife’ in UK will spark surge in cases as flu explodes

A NEW Covid variant has taken over and as cases surge will worsen hospital delays, NHS chiefs warn.

The BQ1 Omicron offshoot is now dominant and makes up 50.4 per cent of infections, compared to 39 per cent last week.

Experts have warned that there has been an increase in the number of people with Covid-19

And flu is rising “significantly” with hospital patient numbers up 44 per cent in a week to 586.

Ambulance delays are already at record highs, with one in seven patients waiting longer than an hour to get into A&E.

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, warned: “We expect this to be the NHS’s most challenging winter yet.

“As we move towards Christmas we will see increasing levels of flu in the community and increasing numbers of patients needing admission to hospital.

“We are also starting to see increases in the numbers of patients with Covid.

“There is a new variant circulating – BQ1 – which is becoming the dominant variant and it seems likely that is going to drive further increases.

“In some countries in Europe that have it you can already see growth in hospital admissions.

“No doubt those pressures will increase.”

Hospitals are crumbling under pressure as nurses and paramedics prepare to strike this month.

Figures show 11,389 ambulances were held outside for 60 minutes or more last week – and a third of all arrivals wait at least half an hour.

Clogged wards have just four in every 100 beds free for new patients in England.

Around 13,400 beds per day – 14 per cent of the total – are blocked by people who are healthy enough to go home but do not have care.

And staff shortages reached another record high in September, with 47,496 empty nurse posts making a third of the total 133,446 vacancies.

Director of the Royal College of Nursing, Patricia Marquis, said: “It’s easy to see why health and care is at breaking point.

“This is precisely the reason our members have decided to strike – the workforce gaps and being underpaid have made care unsafe.”



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