Matt Hancock has warned the “NHS is facing unprecedented pressures” from the coronavirus while a senior medical adviser expressed “extreme concern” about infection rates across the UK.
Boris Johnson is meeting with ministers tonight (Tuesday) to discuss what changes need to be made to England’s tier system to curb the virus spreading. Concerns have been heightened by the new strain of the virus which is believed to be 70% more infectious and the government will make an announcement tomorrow as to how they intend to contain it.
Health experts have suggested the current restrictions might not be enough to get the R-rate back below 1, while the Guardian reports a government source saying new measures may be introduced putting England into a new “tier 5” lockdown.
Alarming figures and unprecedented levels of Covid-19 infection
“We must suppress this virus to protect our NHS & save lives until the vaccine can keep us safe” tweeted the health secretary. Hancock linked to a BBC story that quotes NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens warning that health workers are “back in the eye of the storm”.
NHS hospitals in England and Wales are treating more patients for coronavirus than during the first peak in April, with 20,426 receiving treatment in England on Monday, compared to the approximately 19,000 peak in April.
The figures are even more alarming when combined with others released today (Tuesday) showing a record number of new Covid cases recorded – 53,135 – and a further 414 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, taking that total to 71,567. The total number of deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate is now 79,351.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the senior medical adviser at Public Health England said the “We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of Covid-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern, particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable.”
New restrictions could ban people leaving their homes
Tier 4 restrictions were widened in England with millions more people impacted on December 26 to try and curb the spread of the virus. However, experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have warned that even if the whole country had been put into tier 4 on December 26 until the end of January, the R rate would still remain above 1.
Their analysis comes amidst other reports that the government’s scientific advisers are urging the prime minister to tighten restrictions because tier 4 is not working. The measures include calls to keep secondary schools closed and may even see a ban on people leaving their homes for non-essential reasons.
Day trippers flout restrictions in Wales
Meanwhile, police in Wales have been cracking down on day-trippers flagrantly flouting Covid restrictions to visit beauty spots in the Brecon Beacons.
Wales remains in alert level four which prevents travel into or out of the country and limits all journeys to essential reasons.
However, a car park near Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in southern Britain, was packed with vehicles on Monday and Tuesday, with reports suggesting some had travelled from as far as London.
Dyfed-Powys Police said: “Fixed penalty notices have and will be issued to those blatant breaches where engagement fails,” reporting that some 500 vehicles were in the area on Tuesday.