Hospitals will treat more coronavirus patients on Christmas Day than at any point in the pandemic, official data has shown.
A surge in cases will see the mid-April record from the first peak surpassed tomorrow, with almost 19,000 coronavirus patients likely to be treated in hospital.
A new hyper-infective variant of Covid-19 has spread from London and south-east England to the rest of Britain, putting pressure on the government to enforce more stringent lockdowns.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also warned that a “highly concerning” new strain of Covid-19 originating in South Africa could also add to our woes, with travel bans coming into force from 9am today.
Dr David Strain, a hospital consultant and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, told the Guardian after a shift on the Covid ward at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital: “The NHS is completely full. We are at capacity. We’re at a point where operations, procedures and other life-saving measures are being delayed because beds are full of Covid patients.
“This is impacting on the treatment of many other diseases and there are thousands of people having things like hip replacements delayed because of all those people who are pushing the rules.”
Strain, who himself caught Covid from a patient in hospital, said he feared for the NHS’s ability to cope over the winter with about one in 10 healthcare professionals currently off work due to the coronavirus.
“There just aren’t the doctors and nurses around to run the Nightingale hospitals,” he said. “We’re at the busiest point for the NHS in the whole pandemic and we’re about to ease restrictions for people. It doesn’t make sense.”
Yesterday 744 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, the highest such figure since April 29 during the first peak of the virus.
There were a further 39,237 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus as of 9am on Wednesday, the highest figure reported on a single day throughout the whole pandemic – although this is in part due to much wider testing.