UK health authorities brace for omicron surge in hospitals

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LONDON (AP) – England’s National Health Service is building temporary structures in hospitals across the country to prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 patient numbers as the highly transmissible variant of omicron fuels a new wave of infections.

The UK on Wednesday reported a record 183,037 new confirmed coronavirus infections, 32% more than the day before. While early data suggests that omicron is less likely to cause serious illness than earlier variants, public health officials believe the large number of infections could lead to increased hospitalizations and deaths.

In response, the NHS will start setting up ‘surge centers’ this week at eight hospitals across England, each with the capacity to treat around 100 patients. Staff are making plans to create up to 4,000 “super surge” beds if needed, the NHS said on Thursday.

“We don’t yet know exactly how many of those who catch the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections, we are anxious to find out before we act, so the work starts from there. ‘today to ensure that these facilities are in place. NHS England Medical Director Stephen Powis said in a statement.

The number of people hospitalized in England with COVID-19 rose to 10,462 on Wednesday from 7,366 on December 24, according to government figures. Wednesday’s number was the highest since March 1. The figure is still well below the peak of 34,336 recorded on January 18.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted the implementation of new restrictions on business and social interactions during the holiday season, instead emphasizing an expanded vaccine booster program to control the spread of omicron.

Mass vaccination centers in sports stadiums and museums have reopened after research showed that two doses of the vaccine were not enough to protect against omicron.

Across the UK, nearly 58% of people aged 12 and over have received booster shots, including 325,087 who received a third dose on Tuesday, according to the latest government data.

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Follow all of AP’s stories about the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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