As Britain learns to live with Covid, it faces a new pandemic of disruption | Coronavirus

Although the UK no longer faces the threat of lockdowns or the threat of overcrowding in intensive care units, the coronavirus is still disrupting much of society and the economy.

As Britain learns to live with Covid, the virus is still ravaging our daily lives and these difficulties have been compounded in some sectors by the post-Brexit chaos.

health

The Covid-19 resurgence may not cause the same number of deaths as before, but it is still causing widespread problems.

Medical professionals and healthcare providers alike hoped that 2022 would be the year they got back on track after two years of canceled surgeries, delayed treatments and missed checkups.

But the pressure on hospitals and other healthcare facilities remains high.

In England, the rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations – 20.5 per 100,000 people – is now at its highest level since January 2021. It is the fifth consecutive weekly rise.

The number of people in hospital seriously ill with Covid-19 remains very small – 315 patients are in beds on mechanical ventilation – and almost three in five patients (58%) who have tested positive for Covid-19 are mainly treated for something else.

However, any patients who test positive must be treated separately from others in the hospital, adding to the pressure NHS Employees who are already trying to clear a record backlog of routine treatments.

With more than 20,000 patients with Covid-19 now occupying hospital beds in the UK, finding a place for others in dire need of care is a daily logistical nightmare.

Healthcare workers are also becoming increasingly infected, meaning fewer staff are available to treat patients. The number of NHS workers in hospitals in England who are out of work due to Covid-19 has risen for the fourth consecutive week, with an average of 28,560 over the last week either being sick or having to self-isolate each day.

In many cases the NHS has attempted to switch to alternative methods of care, such as B. Home services, multi-month prescriptions and telemedicine. However, treating the most serious health problems like cancer still inevitably requires hospital beds and a team of medical staff who are fit and healthy.

schools

The Easter holidays came with more sighs of relief than usual for teachers and school leaders in England this year. It offered them some relief from the toll of Covid-related staff shortages, student absenteeism and closure.

For school leaders, ‘living with Covid’ meant staff absenteeism rates were higher than at any time during the pandemic. The latest figures released by the Department of Education (DfE) show that secondary schools have been hit hardest, with 8.7% of teachers absent on the last day of March. Overall, one in five schools were missing more than 15% of their teachers.

The absences come at a critical time, with GCSEs and high school graduation starting May 16. Many schools have responded by hiring available staff to focus on exam preparation for Year 11 and 13 students and using substitute teachers – where available – for other grades. The hardest-hit schools have sent home exam-free classes to learn remotely.

Pupils at Fulham Boys School in London take a mock exam during the pandemic. Photo: Kevin Coombs/Reuters

Elementary schools will also be required to take tests with national assessments, or sats, for sixth-grade students from May 9, despite protests from principals.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he could sense “deep frustration” among its members as Covid infections circulated in schools, despite the government halting access to free testing on April 1. “We all assumed that ‘living with Covid’ meant there would be very low case numbers – this is clearly not the case and absentee rates remain at worryingly high levels. School leaders feel let down,” Whiteman said.

Although cases in state schools have fallen, the latest figures from the DfE still showed 120,000 confirmed Covid infections at the end of March. But when pupils return after Easter, the Covid absences will be a mystery: the department announced this week it will no longer be collecting detailed answers about how many children have missed school because of Covid.

food and agriculture

It has been an exceptionally difficult few years for the farming sector, which has faced a multitude of Brexit and Covid-related shocks and trade restrictions, compounded by an unwelcoming government.

The latter was embodied by Boris Johnson to point out that it didn’t matter if 100,000 were pigs culled in the yard and cannot enter the food chain due to labor shortages in the slaughterhouses, as they would have been killed to make ‘bacon sandwiches’ anyway.

This week MPs said the Covid pandemic and restrictions on recruiting overseas workers had led to it half a million job offers in the food and agricultural sector, with an acute shortage of qualified butchers and slaughterers.

The government’s indifferent response to the crisis, including a temporary short-stay visa regime introduced too late to be of any use, left crops unharvested and left the fields to rot and healthy animals to be culled on the farms, officials said MPs.

Feed, fuel and fertilizer costs rose even before the invasion of Ukraine high shipping costs resulting from disruptions caused by the pandemic. This has led to a rise in the prices of commodities such as organic soy, which is used to feed cows, pigs and chickens.

Pig farmers protest as butcher shortage leads to forced culling
Pig farmers protest as butcher shortage leads to forced culling Photo: Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images

And the promised benefits of post-Brexit trade are yet to come with the UK Food exports falling last year. While UK companies are treated as third countries by the EU, with additional paperwork and consequent delays and costs, for EU exporters it’s almost as if the UK never left the single market.

Trade delays are particularly difficult for products with a shorter shelf life, such as sea fish and dairy products.

At present, the UK food sector appears to be weighed down by a combination of wage increases, price hikes and, feared, the export of food production overseas.

hospitality

Restaurants and bars packed with customers at weekends may make it seem like the hospitality industry has recovered from the pandemic, but many businesses are struggling with a Covid hangover. Debts incurred over the past two years must be paid back as the industry grapples with rising fuel and product prices and rising labor costs.

Other companies did not survive two years of drastically reduced customers. Figures from industry analyst AlixPartners released in January show a net loss of 8,228 catering establishments in 2021 – a 7% drop.

The effects of the pandemic were not felt evenly along the entire main street. Pizza and burger restaurants were among the worst hit, with Italian chains shrinking a net 22% or 448 locations. However, there are encouraging signs of independent restaurants taking advantage of bargain rental deals and private equity holdings, up 3.7%, or 888 locations.

Data from booking platform OpenTable shows that March bookings topped levels for the same period in 2019, as people flocked to restaurants and bars to catch up on missed socializing opportunities.

Britain’s love of takeaway has endured during the recovery from the pandemic, with a boom in orders for companies like Crosstown and German Döner Kebab. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of restaurant business today comes from delivery revenue.

But the withdrawal of government support for hospitality in the spring declaration has angered restaurant and pub bosses, who wanted ministers to extend the VAT cut to 12.5% ​​as the recovery remains fragile.

Consumers have also observed that eating and drinking out is not as cheap as it was before the pandemic, while high inflation and the cost of living crisis mean people will look to forego luxuries. For pub, bar, restaurant and café owners, the uncertainty is not over yet.

Travel

Airports are showing the most visible signs of a travel sector ill-equipped to cope with resurgent demand for holidays post-pandemic, with long queues at Heathrow and scenes bordering on chaos in Manchester.

The UK government’s sudden lifting of all Covid restrictions has opened the floodgates for bookings abroad – and sparked a wave of staff infections. Airlines like easyJet and to a lesser extent British Airways have had to do this Cancel hundreds of flights due to lack of crew.

While the airline industry has long argued for the scrapping of all test and locator forms, it was caught out at short notice by the government last month.

Thousands of staff have either been laid off or left since March 2020 and airports like Manchester are struggling to lure them back. The job market has changed and understaffed sectors like logistics or warehousing may be more attractive than anti-social shifts in security lines or baggage handling.

Lorries queue on the M20 as freight delays continue at the Port of Dover.
Lorries queue on the M20 as freight delays continue at the Port of Dover. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA

New hires for airport jobs also have to be screened by a government body, which is now dealing with a flood of applications – and the process can take months, even in quiet times.

While the UK has scrapped Covid travel rules, most other countries have not: BA says around two-thirds of its destinations still require vaccination certificates or other documents to be checked manually, reducing check-in wait times or increased at border controls.

Brexit bureaucracy is also lengthening 20-mile queues at the English Channel. Thousands of lorries parked on the M20 towards Dover during a new Customs IT collapse Added delays.

The death spiral of reduced trade with the EU and pandemic restrictions on travel led to P&O Ferries’ desperate, brazen dismissal of 800 crew members, suspending services this Easter and escalating raids.

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