Coronavirus: Number of hospitalised Islington patients still low - but expected to rise after ‘30-fold increase’ in cases

A medical worker taking a throat swab for coronavirus sample. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A medical worker taking a throat swab for coronavirus sample. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although hospital admissions due to coronavirus remain low in Islington, the borough has seen a “30-fold increase” in infections since the summer and health chiefs expect admissions to rise.

There are currently about 20 patients from Islington being treated at University College London Hospital and the Whittington, according to Jonathan O’Sullivan, Islington’s acting director of public health.

According to the latest available figures, on October 25 the borough had recorded 1,988 confirmed cases since March - 2.2 per cent of London’s total.

There was an increase of 882 confirmed cases in three weeks, with an average of 52 new cases per day.

Speaking at a council health and wellbeing board meeting on Wednesday, Dr O’Sullivan said there has been “more than a 30-fold increase in infections”, compared to the low level of infection over the summer, and that the demographic mix of those infected has changed.

“Overwhelmingly cases were in young adults, but what we have seen through September was increasing cases through the middle age group from 30 to 60, and now in October we’ve seen increases in our over-60 population,” he said.

“Clearly this is of much greater concern because they are much more vulnerable to Covid complications, much more likely to become seriously unwell, to be admitted to hospital, to be ventilated and there’s a higher risk of death.

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“So this is why it’s important to be working together as a partnership to keep infections as low as we can get them and to reduce them.”

Hospital beds are at a “much lower occupancy” than during the first wave of Covid infections, but with cases increasing, the incidences from October have not yet filtered into the pressure on hospital beds.

“There’s roughly a three to four week delay between infections happening and when people need to be admitted to hospital,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

He outlined the borough’s outbreak control plan now the virus is resurging, which is focused on prevention, control of infection and supporting the community, particularly the most vulnerable.

Chief executive of the Whittington, Siobhan Harrington, said the hospital had seen a “slight increase” in cases over the last five days, and two patients are in intensive care.

“The positive thing about this wave is people are coming in, having treatment and going home,” she said.

“What’s ahead is ahead, and we are anticipating numbers will increase in the next two weeks.

“There have unfortunately been a small number of deaths in the last week, but the majority are recovering and going home.

“My message is adhere to the lockdown - that will help us maintain the surgery and care for the patients.”

John McGrath, who sits on the governing body of the north central London clinical commissioning group (CCG), pointed out that the increased numbers in cases are now picking up those with less severe clinical disease, because of the increase in testing since March, when only hospital patients were being tested.

But he warned that as a GP at the Amwell Group Practice, he has seen an increase in people with ongoing symptoms, now classed as long Covid.

In September the government acknowledged that some people who have experienced both mild and severe coronavirus symptoms can experience long-term health effects lasting more than four weeks.

More than 60,000 people have been affected for more than three months.

Symptoms are diverse and range from respiratory problems, inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular symptoms like chest tightness and heart failure to mental health problems and liver and kidney disfunction.

“It’s important to note that as more people contract Covid and suffer it and get better, we will see increasing amounts of people with this syndrome long Covid,” said Dr McGrath.

UCLH has developed a post-Covid-19 service to help survivors of the virus with their long-term recovery, and holds a clinic three times a week.

An incident rate of above 50 per 100,000 means community transmission has increased, and according to the latest figures available, the weekly incidence rate in Islington was 148.9 per 100,000.

“All the evidence indicates that the government’s decision for a second lockdown is right and we should be thinking what we can do to protect our residents at this point,” said leader of the council, Cllr Richard Watts.