UK hospitals see jump in workers out sick with COVID-19

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise in the United Kingdom, as are the number of healthcare workers out sick with the virus. 

The latest data from the National Health Service England shows 17,713 workers were absent due to COVID-19 as of March 13, which is nearly 32 percent of total absences reported. The tally is up 35 percent from Feb. 27. 

The figure is less than half of what the NHS recorded in early January as it grappled with omicron, when nearly 50,000 workers were absent due to COVID-19, but reflects a turnaround to counts that have been on the decline since that peak.

"In addition to rising in number, the proportion of COVID-related staff absences has also jumped to over 30 percent," Layla McCay, MD, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said in a March 17 statement. "These numbers are concerning and reverse the previous falling trend we had been seeing since early January. If rates continue to rise, this will put further pressure on the NHS and could undermine its ability to tackle the elective backlog. This will also have knock-on effects in community and primary care settings where demand far outstrips capacity."

Dr. McCay noted that any increase in staff absences due to COVID-19 compound existing pressures on the NHS, which has 110,000 job vacancies. 

U.S. health officials have been closely monitoring COVID-19 in the U.K., where infections and hospitalizations are simultaneously climbing due to the BA.2 subvariant, which has outnumbered the original omicron strain.

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