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Hospitals are facing “unprecedented” levels of coronavirus cases, a senior health official has warned, as it emerged that there are now more Covid-19 patients in hospital in England than at the peak of the first wave.
NHS England said it now had 20,426 people being treated for the virus in hospital as of 8am on Monday, surpassing April’s high of 18,946 on 12 April. Health officials in Wales and Scotland have also said they fear becoming overwhelmed.
It came as the UK reported its highest figure yet for new Covid-19 infections recorded in a single day, with 41,385 lab-confirmed cases on Monday, the first time the daily figure has topped 40,000.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, the medical director of Public Health England (PHE), 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.”
The government said a further 357 people had died across the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 71,109.
Separate figures for cases where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate, with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, showed there have now been 87,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The true figures for deaths and cases are likely to be higher as Scotland is not releasing death data between 24 and 28 December, and Northern Ireland is not providing case or death data over the same period.
Doyle added that “despite unprecedented levels of infection”, the vaccine offered hope on the horizon. She urged members of the public to “continue to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus” as the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is rolled out.
Hospitals are under mounting pressure. Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said that a lot of hospitals and paramedics were seeing an “incredibly busy period” and “really feeling that demand”. She put this down to the new Covid variant, “which is spreading more quickly”, but also the huge number of staff absences.
“In some places they are seeing more than double normal levels of staff absence and they don’t have the temporary staff in sufficient numbers to compensate for it,” she said.
She added that she was worried the bad weather would bring further difficulties to ailing trusts. “Chief executives are now dealing with snow as well as other things … so you have rising Covid staff absences and then staff not able to get to work due to snow. That is really difficult.” She said it would be a “very tough month” ahead.
The NHS is preparing to expand Covid vaccination in January as additional supply becomes available.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NHS hospitals facing ‘unprecedented’ levels of coronavirus cases | Society