England Covid cases rocket past April peak at 'unprecedented levels' as doctors warn 'vulnerable' hospitals are on brink
CORONAVIRUS hospital admissions in England have rocketed past the April peak at "unprecedented levels" as doctors warn "vulnerable" hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed.
The number of people being treated for the killer bug in hospitals in England is now 20,426, which is higher than the peak of 19,000 in April, the BBC reports.
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The latest figures from NHS England, published today, show hospitals in London currently have the highest number of coronavirus patients.
There are currently 4,957 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the capital.
The south east faces the second highest number of patients, with 3,544, followed by the Midlands, with 3,515.
Meanwhile, the latest UK-wide figures show there were 21,286 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK on December 22 – this is only slightly less than the peak of 21,683 recorded on April 12.
It comes after a record 41,385 coronavirus cases were recorded in the past 24 hours.
The number of people who have now died from the killer bug also rose by 357, taking the total number of fatalities to 71,109.
Last Monday, 33,363 people tested positive for coronavirus.
Overall, a total of 2,329,730 have now tested positive for coronavirus in the UK.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England medical director, said: "This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable, with new admissions rising in many regions."
She added: "Despite unprecedented levels of infection, there is hope on the horizon."
Infection rates in England are currently highest in areas of Essex, London and other parts of the South East.
Brentwood in Essex has the highest rate in England, with 1,111 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 23 – the equivalent of 1,442.5 cases per 100,000 people.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "We know that the rate of Covid-19 admissions is rising and some trusts are reporting up to three times the number of Covid patients than at the peak of the first wave.
"This means hospitals and also ambulance services in Tier 4 areas and beyond are incredibly busy, compounded by increasing staff absences due to illness and the need to self-isolate."
Dr Katherine Henderson, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, described her experience in hospital on Christmas Day as "wall-to-wall Covid" and begged Brits not to gather for New Year's Eve celebrations.
She told BBC Breakfast: "Please, don’t take a chance on this, please don’t make it likely that we have an additional surge [on New Year’s Eve].
"Don’t mix, wear masks, wash your hands, keep separate — all the things we know we really need people to take very, very seriously."
She added: "We see patients who are coming in who have Covid symptoms and then we have other people coming in with other symptoms who turn out to be Covid positive.
"Between that, there's a great deal of difficulty getting those patients through into the wards.
"The chances are that we will cope but we cope at a cost – the cost is not doing what we had hoped, which is being able to keep non-Covid activities going.
"So we will stretch staff, the problem is at the moment we have a lot of staff sickness."
Doctors in Wales said the NHS and public health services were facing a “bleak” situation, and that the new mutant strain could lead to them being “overwhelmed”.
Meanwhile, paramedics in the capital are receiving up to 8,000 999 calls each day and support has been drafted in from other services in the region.
London Ambulance Service described Boxing Day as one its "busiest ever days", with 7,918 callouts – up more than 2,500 on the 5,217 received on the same day last year.
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust declared an internal incident on Sunday due to the high number of coronavirus patients arriving at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lewisham.
A spokesperson said it was a "precautionary step".
"All our patients have received the treatment they need, including intensive care treatment for Covid-19 and oxygen therapy as required," a statement said.
"We are continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that this remains the case."
It comes as Britain could be thrown into a "Tier 5" lockdown with even harsher restrictions than the November lockdown.
Today's rise in infections is larger than it was yesterday, when 34,693 new infections were logged.
The rise in deaths recorded today is bigger than it was yesterday, when 316 more fatalities were confirmed.
Today's figures do not include the death toll or cases from Northern Ireland or Scotland.
This means the true death toll will likely jump on December 29 when the figures are updated as Scotland and Northern Ireland are not reporting them over the Christmas period.
In England, a further 318 people aged between 38 and 100 died in hospital over the last 24 hours – all but 13 had underlying health conditions.
It comes as:
- Primary school kids and Years 11 and 13 will return to class on January 4
- 10,000 medics and volunteers have been recruited by the NHS to help deliver the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine
- Experts have warned that the vaccine won't achieve herd immunity before the summer
A further 15 deaths and 2,273 infections have been recorded in the Wales in the past 24 hours.
Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop virus from spiraling out of control.
There is no suggestion it would be called "Tier 5", but the measures that are being called for go further than the current Tier 4 ones.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has told the PM that because of the new faster-spreading variant of the virus, the R-rate would surge above 1 in January, it has been reported.
Experts have told Mr Johnson that a New Year national lockdown similar to the one in November where schools remain open will not be enough.
They recommend even stronger measures where secondary schools are shut and pubs and non-essential shops remain closed, Politco has reported.
Sage has reportedly advised that the R-rate could be kept below 1 if all schools remained closed in January.
Today, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government is still set on staggering the reopening of schools as planned but warned of "trade-offs".
He said the current plan was for primary school pupils, GCSE and A-level students and kids of key workers to return to school next week, with other secondary school students returning the following week.
He told Times Radio: "We do keep things under review, and we'll be talking to head teachers and teachers in the next 24, 48 hours just to make sure that our plans… are really robust."
He said: "It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible. But we all know that there are trade-offs.
"As a country we have decided – and I think this is the right thing to do – that we prioritise children returning to school.
"But we have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant."
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