The concerning thing here is not the number of people in hospital, actually. 1,100 patients is a lot, but a modern first world health service should be able to cope with that.
No, the concerning thing is this graph:
151 admissions in the past 24 hours, and the rate increasing at more than 100 a day. The graph is vertical. Another week or two of this, and there simply won’t be enough hospital, or ICU beds.
And at that point, the death rate will start to climb exponentially. Covid isn’t that serious for most people – as long as they have access to effective medical treatment. What we’re seeing now is the nightmare scenario mooted at the very beginning of the pandemic: a health service facing the prospect of being overwhelmed, and rendered incapable of providing care to sick people.
It’s worth asking a couple of questions about this.
First, why weren’t the Government prepared for this possibility? The whole point of the first lockdown, you might remember, was to give the health service time to prepare, increase capacity, and prepare to deal with a pandemic.
Part of those preparations, surely, should be about increasing capacity. So how much has capacity actually increased by, in comparison with this time last year?
Second, assuming the worst (and any responsible policymaker assumes the worst) what contingency planning is now in place, should the number of hospitalisations continue to rise in such a way as to overwhelm the hospitals?
The logical thing, you’d imagine, would be to strengthen step-down facilities, so that those people who are recovering from Covid, but as yet unable to go home, have a place they can be sent where less intensive treatment can be provided, and where they can be monitored.
Are such facilities available?
Third, where the hell is the vaccination programme? Israel, at the time of writing, has vaccinated over a million and a half people – almost a fifth of its entire population. We know exactly who the people at greatest risk of hospitalisation are. Vaccinating them should be the Government’s number one priority at the moment, to the exclusion of almost everything else.
But the vaccine programme is worse than sluggish. And what’s more, it’s poorly targeted: Vaccinating every health care worker is noble, but it won’t matter if the hospitals end up being overwhelmed by sick and dying elderly patients. People most at risk of hospitalisation should be priority number one.
None of this is good.