‘Dangerous new phase’ as COVID-19 cases peak in UK
London – Health workers are “back in the eye of the storm” as coronavirus cases continue to rise, National Health Service (NHS) England’s chief executive Simon Stevens has said.
It has been the “toughest year” for the NHS, which has treated 200 000 severely ill coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, he added.
Hospitals in England are currently treating more COVID patients than at the peak of the first wave in April.
A government scientific adviser has warned national restrictions are needed to prevent a “catastrophe”.
On Monday, a record 41 385 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the UK, though it is thought the infection rate was higher during spring when testing was much more limited.
NHS England said 20 426 people were being treated for the virus in hospitals in England on Monday, which is higher than the previous peak of about 19 000 in April.
Health officials in Wales and Scotland have also said they are at risk of becoming overwhelmed.
The spread of the new coronavirus variant means the UK is “entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic”, according to Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.”
The “50 per cent increase in transmissibility” of the new variant means that “the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so tier four restrictions are likely to be necessary – or even higher than that”, he added.
Tier four – England’s toughest level of coronavirus restrictions, currently in place in parts of east and south-east England – includes a “stay at home” order and non-essential shops having to close.
Hayward said: “I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near lockdown.”
He added that he thought schools would have to return “maybe a little bit later” but that having schools open would mean “we’re going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that”. (BBC)