The number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospital appears to have peaked in every region of England, official figures show as the third national lockdown continues to drive down infections.
NHS England data showed hospitalisations had fallen 13 per cent across England from their peak, and a regional breakdown shows a falling trend in all regions with the biggest drops in London, the South East and East of England, which have been in lockdown since before Christmas.
But despite the flattening off the total number of patients rushed to hospitals every day remains ‘incredibly high’ and ‘substantially’ above the peak of the first wave, the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said at a Downing Street press conference yesterday.
He added they were likely to stay at these levels for weeks and only drop gradually because the more infectious variant is still triggering high numbers of cases, leading to additional admissions.
The total number of Covid-19 patients on wards remains high, and is 80 per cent above the peak of the first wave. And the numbers on mechanical ventilators are at their highest level since the pandemic began at 30 per cent above the levels in April, although in the most recent days this has started to dip.
Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, yesterday warned that doctors and nurses were still seeing no respite from ‘incessant’ Covid admissions.
It comes after the UK passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the virus, which critics have blamed on a ‘litany of errors’ and ministers being ‘constantly behind the curve’ when fighting the pandemic.
Department of Health statistics showed a further 1,631 Covid-19 deaths were recorded yesterday, taking the national tally to 100,162 fatalities since the pandemic began. And Professor Whitty warned daily deaths will remain high over the next few weeks before declining slowly.
Ministers are today set to announce a plan for quarantining those coming from countries with new variants.
The daily number of Covid-19 hospitalisations in England has peaked but remains ‘incredibly high’. Above it is broken down by regions of England
LONDON: Covid-19 hospital admissions in the capital have declined by 28 per cent since the peak on the week to January 9, from 6,000 Covid-19 patients arriving in hospitals in a week to 4,300 in the seven days to January 24, the latest date data is available for. The capital was among the first into Tier 4 measures just days before Christmas
SOUTH EAST: Hospitalisations with the virus have also dipped by 28 per cent in this region in the week to January 9 from 4,600 patients to 3,400 in the week to January 24, the latest date figures are available. It was first to enter Tier 4 measures
EAST OF ENGLAND: Coronavirus admissions in this region dipped by 17 per cent from 3,351 patients in the week to January 9 to 2,800, NHS England data shows. The region was among the first to enter Tier 4 measures
SOUTH WEST: Coronavirus hospitalisations in this region have also peaked, dipping by 15 per cent in the week to January 15 from 2,100 patients to 1,750. The region has escaped the full force of both waves of the pandemic
NORTH WEST: NHS England data suggests admissions are also beginning to flatten in this region, after they hit a peak of 3,100 patients in the week to January 15 before declining by five per cent to 2,900. The North West has faced months of gruelling restrictions, including under both tier systems
MIDLANDS: The daily number of people visiting hospitals with the virus peaked in the Midlands in the week to January 20, when it hit 5,300 patients. It has since dropped by 10 per cent to 4,800.
NORTH EAST AND YORKSHIRE: In this region admissions peaked in the week to January 21 at 3,200 patients before falling by six per cent to 3,000, according to figures from NHS England
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer (left), said although admissions were flattening they remained ‘incredibly high’. Boris Johnson held a press conference last night after the UK recorded more than 100,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began. The NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens (right) also appeared at the conference
NHS England data shows weekly Covid-19 hospitalisations across England peaked in the week to January 12, when they hit an average of 26,700 patients, before dropping to 23,000 by January 24, the latest date figures are available.
But the numbers in hospital with the virus remain very high at 33,000 patients. This is 14,000 more than during the first wave when a peak of 18,500 was reached on April 11.
MINISTERS BEGIN WORK ON ROADMAP TO EASE RESTRICTIONS
Boris Johnson could unveil a roadmap out of lockdown within weeks if coronavirus cases keep easing – as ministers today insisted the government took the ‘right decisions at the right time’ despite the UK passing the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths.
The blueprint, which Tory MPs have been demanding for weeks amid fears about havoc being wreaked on the economy, is expected to be published by February 15, when ministers will review the draconian measures in force to get the mutant strain under control.
News that work on the exit strategy is under way came after Prof Chris Whitty provided a small but much needed glimmer of hope – saying he believed the UK had reached the peak of the latest wave.
The chief medic said cases were falling fast – down from 68,000 cases recorded on January 7 to just over 20,000 yesterday. The figure is the lowest it has been since December, while the vaccine rollout is gathering speed.
However, deaths are still high as they lag behind infections – with some scientists suggesting another 50,000 could fall victim before the crisis ‘burns out’.
This morning Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the handling of the pandemic amid criticism that Mr Johnson acted too late to lockdown at crucial moments, stressing that there was no ‘textbook’ to dealing with the disease and ministers did ‘everything we could’ based on the knowledge they had.
But, in a round of interviews, he admitted that in ‘hindsight’ there were things that could have been done differently, and accepted there will ‘come a time’ when the government’s performance will need to be assessed.
In a blunt verdict, shadow health secretary said: ‘I don’t accept they did everything they could.’
The UK is taking stock after it was announced last night that the toll had moved into six figures, with Mr Johnson telling a Downing Street briefing that he was ‘deeply sorry for every life lost’.
In a glimmer of hope, however, the data shows a dip of two per cent over the past week in a sign the total number of patients in hospital may have peaked, from 33,500 on January 18.
The number of Covid-19 sufferers on mechanical ventilators is at a seven-day average of 3,676 for England, which is the highest since the pandemic began and 800 patients more than the highest level seen at the previous peak in April (2,848).
London, the South East and the East of England were first to see their daily coronavirus admissions peak, NHS England data shows, with each seeing their highest number over the seven days to January 9.
In the capital admissions hit 6,000 patients, before dropping 28 per cent to 4,300 by January 24.
In the East of England they hit 3,351, but then fell 17 per cent to 2,800, and in the South East they dropped by 28 per cent from 4,600 to 3,400.
Admissions passed their peak in the South West – which has escaped the full force of both waves – in the week to January 15, and have now dropped by 15 per cent from 2,100 to 1,750.
And in the North West – forced to endure months of severe restrictions under the old and new tier systems – they peaked in the same week, but have since only dropped five per cent from 3,100 to 2,900.
The daily number of hospitalisations in the Midlands hit a height of 5,300 in the week to January 20. It has now dropped by 10 per cent to 4,800.
And in the North East and Yorkshire NHS data suggests admissions peaked in the week to January 21 at 3,200 before falling by six per cent to 3,000.
Professor Whitty warned last night that while admissions had started to dip, the levels were still very high across England.
‘We were worried two weeks ago that the measures we have at the moment were not enough to hold this new variant,’ he told the press conference.
‘I think what the data I showed you at the beginning of the slide sessions shows is that the rates are just about holding with the new variant, with what everybody’s doing.
‘It’s going to be much harder because of this new variant and I think we have to be realistic about that.’
Sir Stevens said yesterday health staff want to know if there are ‘reinforcements on the way’ amid the high numbers of admissions of patients suffering from Covid-19.
He was asked if NHS staff in England will receive a financial bonus as a gesture of support after health and social care colleagues in Scotland got a £500 payment in recognition of their work during the pandemic.
‘What people probably want right now is three things – first of all to be able to look forward to some sort of respite from what has been an incredibly demanding and continuous year of pressure.
‘Secondly to know that there are reinforcements on the way, that the staffing pressures in the health service will be taken seriously in the years to come.
‘And thirdly to tackle the pressures in the here and now which fundamentally are about reducing the number of new patients who are turning up in A&E severely ill with coronavirus day in day out. So it’s that combination I think.
CORONAVIRUS CASES FALL BY TWO THIRDS IN THREE WEEKS, FIGURES SHOW
Britain’s coronavirus cases have dropped to a third of the level three weeks ago, as the country’s second wave continues to run out of steam amid brutal lockdown restrictions.
Department of Health statistics show 20,089 infections were registered yesterday – well below the 45,533 announced two weeks ago, and 40 per cent less than the 33,355 recorded last Tuesday.
But amid the promising sign the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed the grim milestone of 100,000 for the first time today bringing the total to 100,162, after health chiefs announced another 1,631 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
It marked a one per cent rise on the same time last week when 1,610 people succumbed to the virus, amid predictions from experts that the second wave will peak this week.
Nonetheless, the falling infections are a sure sign that hospitalisations and deaths from the virus should also start to fall.
There is a lag of about two weeks between someone becoming infected with the virus and developing symptoms severe enough to be hospitalised, and around another week for someone to sadly die from the disease.
‘The sense there will be some respite, the sense the health service will get resilient, staffing support it needs in the years to come, but right now we actually collectively turn off the incessant new admissions that are arriving with very severely ill coronavirus patients.’
Also asked why NHS staff in England have received no financial bonus, Boris Johnson said the health service had seen investment.
‘We do our absolute utmost to support our wonderful NHS staff and indeed have had a three-year pay package for nurses, that I think was 12.8%, and will continue to invest record sums in the NHS,’ he said.
‘I think the amount we invested in the NHS even before the pandemic began was more than any time in modern memory, £34 billion package of investment, and that will continue under this Government.’
Speaking at a sombre Downing Street press conference yesterday after the 100,000 death toll was announced, Mr Johnson said: ‘On this day, I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and, of course, as Prime Minister, I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done.
‘What I can tell you is that we truly did everything that we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country, and we will continue to do that.’
But in a glimmer of hope on what Professor Whitty branded a ‘very sad day’, the number of people testing positive for coronavirus has dropped again to just a third of the level it was at three weeks ago, with 20,089 more infections.
The infection number was well below the 45,533 announced two weeks ago and a steep drop from 60,916 the Tuesday before that.
Although the peak of infections now appears to have passed, the number of people in hospital is still ‘incredibly high’, Professor Whitty said as both he and the PM spoke to quash hopes that lockdown will be lifted soon. On loosening restrictions Mr Johnson said the infection rate was ‘still pretty forbiddingly high’.
Deaths lag about three weeks behind cases because it takes this long for someone who has caught the virus to suffer symptoms severe enough to be admitted to hospital and die from the disease, and Professor Whitty said the daily counts would remain high for weeks to come.