'Don't forget about Covid': Royal Preston doctor warns that people are still being hospitalised by the virus as latest Omicron wave breaks

A significant minority of the patients with Covid in the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital are there because of the virus itself – and not for an unrelated reason.
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Professor Mohammed Munavvar, a senior respiratory consultant at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), urged fresh caution in the face of the latest surge in cases – the third wave in little more than six months to be fuelled by sub-variants of Omicron.

He told the Lancashire Post that while fewer Covid-postive patients were now being admitted as a direct result of their infection than in previous spikes, it was still a common enough occurrence to merit people doing all they can to avoid contracting the virus.

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This is how many patients are sometimes stuck in the Royal Preston and Chorley H...
Professor Mohammed Munavvar is warning "fed up" people not to throw Covid caution to the windProfessor Mohammed Munavvar is warning "fed up" people not to throw Covid caution to the wind
Professor Mohammed Munavvar is warning "fed up" people not to throw Covid caution to the wind
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Professor Munavvar estimates that, in recent weeks, “more than two thirds” of Covid cases on the wards have been classed as “incidental” infections – meaning that they have been found in people who have been taken to hospital for another illness or a pre-planned operation and happen to have tested positive for Covid on arrival. That is up from the 50/50 split he observed as recently as April.

However, that still leaves around 1 in 3 hospitalised Covid patients in Central Lancashire who have ended up being admitted purely because of the virus.

The Post understands that, as of Friday (1st July), there were 77 patients with Covid across Preston and Chorley hospitals – up from 52 on 28th June, the most recent date for which data has been officially published. Eight of the Friday cohort required a high level of respiratory care and, earlier in the week, one Covid patient was in critical care.

“There’s no doubt that we are in a better position than before – because of the vaccines, predominantly – but also [with] the recent Omicron variant being less aggressive than Delta or Alpha,” Professor Munavvar explained.

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“But Covid is still around, some people are getting hospitalised and the dangers are certainly still there – albeit not as scary and terrifying as before with regard to consequences.

“There are very few people who are unwell enough to require oxygen and [of] those who are unwell, as a general rule, most of them have not had their boosters – or have not even been vaccinated [at all].

“We have done amazingly well with the vaccines, but the reality is that some risk remains, so that needs to be borne in mind and [we should] continue to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions.

“When your vaccination is due, grab it with both hands and ensure you are fully protected and boosted.

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“And certainly in enclosed indoor environments, I’d strongly recommend that masks are worn. I can understand that people are fed up after two years and, as the summer comes and temperatures go up, it can be more stuffy and people do complain about masks making things worse. Of course, outdoor, ventilated areas are better [for meeting in].”

Professor Munavvar would also like to see patients continuing to take the precaution of wearing masks when they are on hospital premises – even though that rule was relaxed last month in several parts of Preston and Chorley hospitals in line with revised national guidance.

He said that staff were continuing to be “very cautious with regard to masking” and were always doing so in clinical areas.

The number of Covid-postitive patients passing through the two hospitals is likely to be higher than the tally of those who are actually admitted – because when someone who is attending for a procedure tests positive, they are usually sent home if they are fit enough to leave.

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Professor Munavvar says that the disruption caused by Covid surges to the ongoing effort to tackle the waiting list backlogs caused by the pandemic is another good reason to attempt to drive infection rates down on the community..

He told the Post that while the trust was “preparing for all eventualities” that may arise from the current wave – against a backdrop of concern that the BA5 variant behind it may be more adept at infecting lung tissue than earlier Omicron strains – he is hopeful that the worst effects on both patients and NHS services can be avoided.

“We have newer medications on the back of the UK Covid recovery study – and we have an algorithm and clear guidelines on how to manage patients should they come in with a more severe form of illness. We are much more prepared,” Professor Munavvar added.

Last week, Lancashire County Council’s director of public health warned that while vaccinations have largely “blunted” the worst effects of Covid, it still

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“really knocks people out of it for a few days - it's exhausting and they end up being off work”.

He appealed to people to “keep doing the basics" – including meeting in the open air and self-isolating if they have the virus, even though the legal requirement to do so ended back in February.

"A review has recently been published saying that long-distance airborne transmission is possible in indoor settings, so there needs to be adequate ventilation and people need to meet outdoors wherever possible," Dr. Karunanithi added.

The latest Office for National Statistics survey estimated that 2.3 million people were infected with Covid across the UK in the week to 24th June – that equates to 1 in 30 of the population and is a 32 percent jump in seven days.

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In Preston, 57.1 percent of the over-12 population has had a third Covid vaccine – the original booster shot which became available late last year. All over-16s are eligible for that shot, as well as some vulnerable 12-15-year-olds.

In Chorley, the figure is 67.8 percent, while in South Ribble it stands at 68.1 percent. Across the Lancashire County Council area – excluding Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen – the proportion of over-12s to have received at least one booster is 62 percent, compared to the 79 percent who have had the initial two jabs.

The over-75s, the immunosuppressed and residents of care homes for older adults were offered a spring booster earlier this year – which is still available to anybody who has not yet taken up the offer.

It is expected that an autumn booster will be rolled out later this year, with initial guidance suggesting that it would be for the over-65s, those in a clinical risk group, frontline health and social care workers and care home residents and staff. However, it was reported last week that there was a possibility that the jab may yet be offered to all over-50s.