Home health Britain records 492 Covid-19 deaths in highest daily toll since May

Britain records 492 Covid-19 deaths in highest daily toll since May

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Britain records 492 Covid-19 deaths in highest daily toll since May


Britain today recorded another 492 Covid-19 victims in the highest daily death toll since May — but infections are no longer spiralling.

Department of Health figures show the number of laboratory-confirmed victims today is the most since 500 were announced on May 19 — the death tolls on Mondays are known to be higher than usual because of a recording lag over the weekend. More than 1,000 infected Brits were succumbing to the disease each day during the peak of the first wave in the spring.

But infections have risen just 1.9 per cent in a week, with government officials today declaring another 25,177 new positive tests. Government advisers say the true number of daily cases occurring during the worst parts of March and April was around 100,000 — but Number 10‘s lacklustre testing system meant millions went undetected. 

Some top scientists believe the flare-up of Covid-19, which kicked off when schools and universities reopened in September, has already died down. One expert yesterday argued cases were ‘flatlining’.  

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, today sparked hope by claiming data from his team’s symptom-tracking study shows the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’. Covid-19 deaths lag behind cases by about three weeks, due to the time it takes for a patient to fall seriously ill with the disease. 

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director, said: ‘Sadly we know that the trend in deaths will continue to rise over the next few weeks. As the new measures come into place it will take some time for the impact to be seen.

‘We have all made sacrifices and they have helped to save many lives. Let’s stick with it to keep our loved ones safe. The fewer people you see, the more you’ll help stop the spread.’

It comes as MPs tonight signed off the brutal second national lockdown despite Boris Johnson suffering a major Tory revolt – with Theresa May accusing the government of mangling figures to force the policy through. The extreme measures were approved by a margin of 516 to 38 in the Commons, and will now come into force at midnight.

Revellers packed out pubs this afternoon as they get the last rounds in before England nosedives into a second lockdown. Britons today also stocked up on clothes and homeware, getting ready for their last night out and squeezing in a final gym session for what is the ‘last hurrah’ for millions.

Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, today tweeted graphs showing that estimated cases of people with symptomatic Covid-19 appear to be coming down now in England and the UK as a whole

King’s College London’s Professor Tim Spector shared projections that suggest new daily cases are now falling after peaking in October

Leaked documents, seen by The Telegraph, revealed intensive care units nationally are no busier than normal for this time of year for most trusts, pouring extra cold water on claims the NHS is close to being overrun

Leaked documents, seen by The Telegraph, revealed intensive care units nationally are no busier than normal for this time of year for most trusts, pouring extra cold water on claims the NHS is close to being overrun

It comes after a leaked document showed hospital bed occupancy this year dropped to its lowest percentage for a decade when medics had to turf out thousands of inpatients to make room for a predicted surge in people with Covid-19. Now that normal care has resumed, a leaked report suggests there are still fewer than average numbers of beds in use

It comes after a leaked document showed hospital bed occupancy this year dropped to its lowest percentage for a decade when medics had to turf out thousands of inpatients to make room for a predicted surge in people with Covid-19. Now that normal care has resumed, a leaked report suggests there are still fewer than average numbers of beds in use 

This chart was designed to show that some hospitals – in red – already had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in the spring

This chart was designed to show that some hospitals – in red – already had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in the spring

While 29 hospitals are shown on the slide, the full dataset, published by NHS England, actually includes 482 NHS and private hospitals in England. At least 232 of them had not a single Covid-19 patient by October 27

While 29 hospitals are shown on the slide, the full dataset, published by NHS England, actually includes 482 NHS and private hospitals in England. At least 232 of them had not a single Covid-19 patient by October 27

MPS APPROVE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN BY 516 VOTES TO 38

MPs tonight signed off the brutal national lockdown despite Boris Johnson suffering a major Tory revolt – with Theresa May accusing the government of mangling figures to force the policy through.

The extreme measures were approved by a margin of 516 to 38 in the Commons, and will now come into force at midnight. 

However, Mr Johnson has been left reeling after a stormy three-hour debate that saw a slew of senior Conservatives condemn the move – and many either vote against it or abstain. 

Labour’s backing for the lockdown meant the PM was assured the squeeze would be rubber-stamped. But government whips had limited success in cutting the scale of the mutiny. 

Some 32 of those who voted against were Tory MPs, with a further two rebels acting as tellers – meaning 34 in total. Julian Lewis, who was stripped of the whip earlier this year, and DUP MPs were also opposed. 

Former PM Mrs May delivered a damning assessment of Mr Johnson’s handling of the situation, saying a controversial claim that deaths could hit 4,000 a day by next month was ‘wrong before it was even used’.

She said Mr Johnson – who scuttled out of the Commons as she started speaking – must open up to more scrutiny, warning that the extraordinary national restrictions coming into force at midnight will ‘shatter livelihoods’. In the end, Mrs May abstained rather than vote against the government. 

On another chaotic day of wrestling over how to respond to the coronavirus crisis:  

  • The NHS is being thrust back into its highest alert level, in anticipation of a wave of coronavirus hospital admissions in the coming weeks; 
  • New shielding guidance says the most vulnerable group of people should stay at home except for exercise and medical appointments; 
  • John Lewis has announced it is to cut 1,500 head office jobs in an effort to bolster the business in the devastating pandemic;
  • Supermarkets reminded Britons that couples and families should not shop together in a bid to aid social distancing measures ahead of England’s new winter lockdown;
  • Nicola Sturgeon threatened to criminalise Scots who travel far from home as she warned of a toughening up of Scottish Covid laws;
  • There is only a ‘small chance’ that Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine will be ready by Christmas, one of the top scientists behind the experimental jab warned;
  • Boris Johnson apologised to business leaders for the introduction of new Government ‘diktats’ during the second coronavirus lockdown today and vowed not to extend the enforced closure of UK plc.

There is a time lag between a spike in Covid-19 cases and then hospitalisations and deaths due to the fact it can take several days for someone to get seriously unwell with the disease, and even weeks for death.

It may explain why cases have appeared to have flattened in the past few days following a surge in September and early October, while deaths soar to record levels since the spring.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 22,398 – only 1.9 per cent higher than last Wednesday. For the past two days it has dropped, suggesting the spread of the virus is slowing ahead of the second national lockdown.

Britain yesterday recorded its lowest number of daily coronavirus cases in a fortnight, leaving scientists questioning whether the second national lockdown had been ordered too early. 

COUNTDOWN TO LOCKDOWN 

Pictured, drinkers in Borough Market today

Pictured, drinkers in Borough Market today

Revellers have packed out pubs this afternoon as they get the last rounds in before England nosedives into a second lockdown.

Britons today are stocking up clothes and homeware, getting ready for their last night out and squeezing in a final gym session for what is the ‘last hurrah’ for millions of Brits who, from midnight, will find their freedoms curtailed as they are told to remain indoors under draconian measures for the next four weeks.

The shutters will come down on pubs, restaurants and non-essential stores by the end of the day, signalling the start of yet more swingeing restrictions.

Punters have been savouring their last pint before bars close at 10pm – as many landlords warn this could be last orders for their pubs which may not reopen with the hospitality industry at breaking point.

Hordes of shoppers have been seen queuing outside retail stores including Primark and Ikea up and down the high streets, while eager revellers are already getting the rounds in at Wetherspoons.

And gym bunnies are hitting the treadmills and weights rack for one last session before they are forced back into home workouts for the next month. 

People have flocked to shopping centres to buy Christmas presents ahead of the second lockdown, the boss of a major mall operator has said.

Some top scientists believe the current flare-up of Covid-19, which kicked off when schools and universities reopened in September, has already died down. 

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan claimed infections, hospital admissions and ‘in effect’ deaths were already flatlining before Saturday’s announcement. 

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, today sparked hope by claiming data from his team’s symptom-tracking study shows the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’.

It came after he revealed yesterday that a ‘plateauing and slight fall in new cases in England, Wales and Scotland’ meant the R rate was now 1. 

R, which stands for reproduction number, represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but if it goes below 1, it means the outbreak is shrinking.

But Professor Spector has said it’s not time to relax, and argued the plateau would not be seen for at least a week in hospitals because of the lag it takes between patients catching the disease and getting severely ill. He warned it could take a month before deaths start to drop. 

Deaths – of which today there were 492 across all settings including care homes and hospitals – are continuing to rise. Yesterday the UK recorded another 136 coronavirus deaths — a rise of 33.3 per cent on the 102 lab-confirmed fatalities posted last week.

An average of 295 people are dying per day, which is 58.7 per cent higher than last Wednesday.  At the height of the pandemic, more than 1,000 people were dying per day.

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Data from the Office for National statistics yesterday revealed Covid-19 fatalities, as recorded on a death certificate, had risen for the seventh week in a row after dropping below 100 for a brief period in the summer.

To curb a surge of Covid-19 hospital admissions ministers were told would overwhelm the NHS, from Thursday, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will again be forced to close their doors.   

MPs have backed the new four-week coronavirus lockdown for England in the Commons today with a Government majority of 478, after Boris Johnson warned of an ‘existential threat’ to the NHS without action to curb the spread of the disease.

The PM even warned the sick ‘would be turned away’ for non-Covid illnesses, if the NHS became overwhelmed. 

Opening the debate, Mr Johnson said that without action now, the chances of the NHS being in ‘extraordinary trouble’ by December were ‘very, very high’.

ONLY A ‘SMALL CHANCE’ OF A CORONAVIRUS VACCINE BY CHRISTMAS  

Oxford University's Professor Andrew Pollard

Kate Bingham, the UK's vaccine tsar

Oxford University’s Professor Andrew Pollard (left) and Kate Bingham, the UK’s vaccine tsar, have warned a vaccine will most likely not be ready this year

There is only a ‘small chance’ that Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine will be ready by Christmas, one of the top scientists behind the experimental jab warned today.  

Professor Andrew Pollard said he was optimistic data showing his team’s vaccine works and is safe will be available by the end of the year.

But he poured cold water on the idea it could be rolled out to the most vulnerable groups by then because of the time it takes time for regulators to scrutinise the trials and their findings.  

Earlier today NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said the health service was ready and on standby to deliver a mass Covid vaccination programme by Christmas. He claimed GP surgeries, pharmacies and testing centres — including at the mothballed Nightingale hospitals — were preparing to ‘fire the starting gun’.

But Kate Bingham, the UK’s vaccine tsar, claimed it was ‘more realistic’ to expect the first Brits to get their hands on a jab by early next year.  

The Government announced over summer a deal had been struck with AstraZeneca — the pharmaceutical firm which owns the rights to Oxford’s vaccine — to dish out 30million doses by September if it was proven to be effective.  

But Ms Bingham — chair of the Vaccine Taskforce — said problems with ramping up manufacturing capacity meant the UK fell well short of this target. She predicted only 4million doses will be available before 2021.

Both Professor Pollard and Ms Bingham warned the first wave of vaccines would not be good enough to allow society to immediately return to normal, scuppering Boris Johnson’s promise that ‘life will return to normal next summer’. 

‘Let me be clear that this existential threat to our NHS comes not from focusing too much on coronavirus, as is sometimes asserted, but from not focusing enough,’ he said.

‘We simply cannot reach the point where our National Health Service is no longer there for everyone.’

With Labour supporting the new lockdown restrictions – which were also expected to be approved by the House of Lords later on Wednesday – the Government’s majority was never in doubt.

However Mr Johnson faced an angry backlash from some Tory MPs – led by former prime minister Theresa May – alarmed at the economic impact of the controls as well as the curtailment of civil liberties.

Mrs May said pointedly that Parliament would make better decisions if it was ‘fully and properly informed’ about the facts.

‘For many people it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures,’ she said.

Sir Graham Brady, influential chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, questioned whether the Government had any right to take some of the measures it wanted.

‘The thing that troubles me most is that the Government is reaching too far in to the private and family lives of our constituents. I think there is an, unintended perhaps, arrogance in assuming the Government has the right to do so,’ he said

It came after Mr Johnson faced the wrath of Conservative MPs in the wake of his Downing Street briefing on Saturday night, enraged by the ‘evil’ new rules that will cripple the economy. They have been branded ‘unimaginable’ and compared to the actions of a ‘totalitarian regime’.

In the Commons today, the Prime Minister sought to reassure MPs that the measures – which are due to expire on December 2 – should enable shops and businesses to reopen in time for the run-up to Christmas, after speculation they could be extended if the crisis is not controlled.

The PM acknowledged however that opening the country back up would depend on getting the R number – the reproduction rate of the virus – back down below 1.

He has this week insisted cases were now surging so high there was ‘no alternative’ to the month-long blanket restrictions across England, and warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak. 

The government’s scientific advisers urged Mr Johnson to act quickly to avoid second wave of coronavirus that has a lower daily death toll but which lasts for a longer period of time – making it more deadly overall.  

It comes as NHS in England will tonight be thrust into its highest alert level – level 4 – from midnight amid a continuing rise in coronavirus patients needing hospital care. 

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, claimed the move to level four was in response to the ‘serious situation ahead’. He warned non-Covid treatment would be disrupted again if the outbreak ‘takes off’. 

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid-19 patients could start to force the closure of other vital services across the nation.   

NHS in England will tonight be thrust into its highest alert level – level 4 – from midnight amid a continuing rise in coronavirus patients needing hospital care

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England's chief executive, pictured today, claimed the move to level four was in response to the 'serious situation ahead'

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that the influx of Covid-19 patients could start to disrupt other vital services on a national scale

TIER 3 SYSTEM IS WORKING, DATA SHOWS AHEAD OF NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN 

The average number of people getting diagnosed with coronavirus each day has clearly declined in Liverpool since the Tier Three restrictions began there on October 14. The same is true of numerous local authorities across the North of the country

The average number of people getting diagnosed with coronavirus each day has clearly declined in Liverpool since the Tier Three restrictions began there on October 14. The same is true of numerous local authorities across the North of the country

England’s three-tier lockdown strategy is bringing down coronavirus cases in badly affected areas, according to official data that raises questions about whether the national intervention is really needed. 

On the eve of the country’s second national shutdown, on which MPs will vote later today, government statistics show that tough measures already in place appear to be working and thwarting the spread of the disease, calling into question the need for the new rules.

Numbers of people testing positive in hotspot areas such as Liverpool, Merseyside, Manchester, Lancaster and Blackpool have levelled off or even started falling in the weeks since the areas entered local lockdowns.

Almost 10million people living in the North of England are now under Tier Three restrictions, which effectively ban socialising in person.

Government dashboard data shows that cases have dropped in multiple places subjected to local lockdowns.

Liverpool and Manchester and the areas around them have been the ones to face the toughest rules since the three-layer system was introduced.

In Liverpool, which was the first city to enter Tier Three, on October 14, the average number of people testing positive each day almost halved from 3,447 on October 7 to 1,828 on October 29.

Nearby Knowsley saw the same trend, with average daily cases dropping from 1,102 on October 9 to 637 per day by the 29th.

Other areas in Merseyside saw the same effect, with a shift in the outbreak’s trajectory from sharp increase to definite decline in the middle of October.

In nearby Manchester, which followed suit into Tier Three not long after, delayed by Government wrangling over financial compensation, cases also appear to have turned.

Cases plummeted at the start of the month from a high of 3,226 per day on October 3, to 2,363 on the 16th, but have since risen again but started to fall once more. The up-and-down figures suggest at least a stabilising of the outbreak there and the most recent numbers are trending downwards. 

 

Sir Simon urged people without Covid-19 not to stop using the NHS. He said: ‘The facts are clear, we are once again facing a serious situation. This is not a situation anybody wanted to find themselves in, the worst pandemic in a century, but the fact is that the NHS is here.’ 

In a press conference from University College Hospital, Sir Simon said the health service has prepared ‘very carefully’ for the ‘next phase of coronavirus’.

He said that, for some patients, mortality in hospital and intensive care has ‘halved since Covid was first known to humanity’. But he added: ‘However well-prepared hospitals, the NHS, GP surgeries are, it is going to be a difficult period.’

He said: ‘We want to try and ensure that the health service is there for everybody, minimising the disruption to the full range of care that we provide, not just Covid but cancer services, routine operations and mental health services.

‘And the truth, unfortunately, is that, if coronavirus takes off again, that will disrupt services.’

Echoing the gloomy warnings of No10’s top scientific advisers, Sir Simon said there were already some hospitals with more Covid patients than during the first peak in April. 

But Sir Simon’s comments come after leaked documents today revealed intensive care units are no busier than normal for this time of year for most trusts, pouring extra cold water on claims the NHS is close to being overrun.  

Eighteen per cent of critical care beds available across the health service nationally, which is normal for the autumn.

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Data from the NHS Secondary Uses Services, seen by The Telegraph, claims to show that even in the worst hit region, the North West, seven per cent of critical care beds are still free. 

It raises questions have been asked about whether hospital data justifies the second lockdown, because it suggests neither hospitals nor intensive care units are actually busier than normal for this time of year. 

Before announcing that NHS England would once again move to level four today, Sir Simon claimed the health service is currently treating the equivalent of 22 hospitals’ worth of Covid-19 patients. But around three quarters of these are in the North East, North West or the Midlands, which have been hit harder by the second wave.

And he repeated claims that the numbers of infected patients in hospital will surpass levels seen during the first wave by the end of November. Fewer than 500 Covid-19 patients were in England’s hospitals at the start of September, compared to 10,000 now. 

The figure in April — during the darkest days of the first wave — stood at 17,000. At the height of the crisis, officials took the drastic decision to cancel operations and treatment for thousands of patients, including cancer victims, amid fears a swarm of coronavirus-infected patients would overwhelm hospitals across England.

But tens of thousands of beds were never used, including wards in private facilities commandeered by No10 and make-shift Nightingales purposely created to help ease the burden of Covid-19.

As a consequence, millions of people are feared to have missed out on cancer scans, consultations or treatments while hospitals ran reduced services. A&E attendances plummeted to fewer than half the usual numbers. 

Sir Simon today admitted that the NHS never ran out of room during the first wave and claimed that the national lockdown will mean the health service continues to have space throughout the winter to keep up normal services and tackle backlog created from cancelling thousands of operations in the first wave. 

NHS will move to highest alert level from MIDNIGHT because of the ‘serious situation ahead’ as health boss warns non-Covid treatment WILL be disrupted if outbreak takes off again

Sir Simon Stevens - NHS England's chief executive - said the move to level four was in response to the 'serious situation ahead'

Sir Simon Stevens – NHS England’s chief executive – said the move to level four was in response to the ‘serious situation ahead’

The NHS will tonight be thrust back into its highest alert level, in anticipation of a wave of coronavirus hospital admissions in the coming weeks.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, claimed the move to level four was in response to the ‘serious situation ahead’. He warned non-Covid treatment would be disrupted again if the outbreak ‘takes off’. 

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid-19 patients could start to force the closure of other vital services across the nation. 

It comes amid startling warnings from Number 10’s advisory panel SAGE, used to justify the country’s second lockdown, that the health service could run out of beds within weeks unless tougher action is taken. Boris Johnson even warned the sick ‘would be turned away’, if the NHS became overwhelmed.

But questions have been asked about whether there truly was a need for the blanket restrictions, with data suggesting neither hospitals nor intensive care units are actually busier than normal for this time of year.

And some top scientists believe the current flare-up of Covid-19, which kicked off when schools and universities reopened in September, has already died down. One expert yesterday argued cases were ‘flatlining’.

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, today sparked hope by claiming data from his team’s symptom-tracking study shows the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’.

But he argued this would not be seen for at least a week in hospitals because of the lag it takes between patients catching the disease and getting severely ill. Professor Spector warned it could take a month before deaths start to drop.

Before announcing that NHS England would once again move to level four today, Sir Simon claimed the health service is currently treating the equivalent of 22 hospitals’ worth of Covid-19 patients. But around three quarters of these are in the North East, North West or the Midlands, which have been hit harder by the second wave.

And he repeated claims that the numbers of infected patients in hospital will surpass levels seen during the first wave by the end of November. Fewer than 500 Covid-19 patients were in England’s hospitals at the start of September, compared to 10,000 now. 

The figure in April — during the darkest days of the first wave — stood at 17,000. At the height of the crisis, officials took the drastic decision to cancel operations and treatment for thousands of patients, including cancer victims, amid fears a swarm of coronavirus-infected patients would overwhelm hospitals across England.

But tens of thousands of beds were never used, including wards in private facilities commandeered by No10 and make-shift Nightingales purposely created to help ease the burden of Covid-19.

As a consequence, millions of people are feared to have missed out on cancer scans, consultations or treatments while hospitals ran reduced services. A&E attendances plummeted to fewer than half the usual numbers. 

Sir Simon urged people without Covid-19 not to stop using the NHS. He said: ‘The facts are clear, we are once again facing a serious situation. This is not a situation anybody wanted to find themselves in, the worst pandemic in a century, but the fact is that the NHS is here.’ 

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that the influx of Covid-19 patients could start to disrupt other vital services on a national scale

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that the influx of Covid-19 patients could start to disrupt other vital services on a national scale

Don’t stop going to your GP, leading doctors plead 

People who fall unwell with non-Covid-19 symptoms are being urged not to put off seeing a doctor.

The Royal College of GPs said that general practices would remain open and fully functional, despite the latest NHS alert level.

The body is urging GP practices across the country to ‘get the message out’ that services will stay open, by sharing it on their websites and social media.

There were 27million fewer GP appointments than normal during the shut down, raising fears it led to the worsening of other conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

Tens of thousands less people than average went for cancer checks during that time and there were hundreds more deaths from heart attacks. 

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘General practice has remained open throughout the pandemic – and now we’re in a second lockdown, that isn’t changing. GPs have worked incredibly hard, swiftly transforming their services to continue delivering safe and accessible care to patients in the most challenging of circumstances.

‘We do not want slogans such as ‘stay at home’ or ‘protect the NHS’ to deter patients from seeking medical care, if they need it. We do not want to see patients hesitant to access our services, and in doing so potentially missing out on vital care.

‘Lockdown is going to be tough for people. It will potentially have an impact on their physical and mental health. 

‘We hope our resources help GPs get the message out to patients that general practice services are available, albeit delivered differently than usual. GPs and our teams are currently delivering more consultations than we were before the pandemic, and delivering the largest and most complicated flu vaccination programme ever – but if patients are sick, or if they have potential signs of serious illness such as cancer, they should contact their GP or NHS 111, or in an emergency call 999.’

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid-19 patients could start to disrupt other vital services across the nation.

The health service was originally put on a level four alert in January ahead of the first peak of the epidemic, but it was downgraded in August when England successfully flattened its curve through lockdown.

However, a surge in cases last month resulted in thousands of coronavirus-infected patients pouring into hospitals across the country in recent weeks, mainly in badly-affected towns and cities in the north.

Triggering the alert means all trusts have to report to NHS England centrally so it can track bed levels in every region and reallocate equipment, staff and capacity in the worst-affected areas. 

The NHS assured patients they won’t notice any difference after the new alert level.

The upgrading of the alert system comes as hospitals in Manchester opened up extra ICU beds to treat a growing number of Covid-19 patients needing oxygen.

There are now around 300 patients with the disease in the hotspot city’s hospitals, according to Manchester council’s health scrutiny committee.

But operations for people who have got other illnesses and conditions are continuing, piling additional pressure on the health service there. 

Health bosses plan to start using the 36 ICU beds at Manchester’s Nightingale hospital, which was built during the first wave but went unused, next week.  

In a press conference from University College Hospital, Sir Simon said the health service has prepared ‘very carefully’ for the ‘next phase of coronavirus’.

He said that, for some patients, mortality in hospital and intensive care has ‘halved since Covid was first known to humanity’.

But he added: ‘However well-prepared hospitals, the NHS, GP surgeries are, it is going to be a difficult period.’

He said: ‘We want to try and ensure that the health service is there for everybody, minimising the disruption to the full range of care that we provide, not just Covid but cancer services, routine operations and mental health services.

‘And the truth, unfortunately, is that, if coronavirus takes off again, that will disrupt services.’

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Echoing the gloomy warnings of No10’s top scientific advisers, Sir Simon said there were already some hospitals with more Covid patients than during the first peak in April.  

He added: ‘We are seeing that in parts of the country where hospitals are dealing with more coronavirus patients now than they were in April.

‘The best way we enable the health service to look after all the people who need our care … this, by the way, is what is meant by that slogan ‘Protect the NHS’, what it means, I think, is help us help you by ensuring (we) are able to offer that wider range of care.’

He said that ‘other lines of defence such as actions individuals are taking to reduce the spread of the virus and the Test and Trace programme’ are needed, adding: ‘The reality is that there is no health service in the world that by itself can cope with coronavirus on the rampage. That’s why it is so important that we reduce infections across the country.’

The number of Covid-19 patients in English hospitals has soared almost five-fold from 1,995 on October 1 to 9,213 on the 31st, Department of Health data shows. 

‘In a sense the facts speak for themselves,’ Sir Simon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.

‘We began early September with under 500 coronavirus patients in hospitals by the beginning of October that had become 2,000 and as of today that is just under 11,000.

‘Put another way we’ve got 22 hospitals worth of coronavirus patients across England and even since Saturday when the Prime Minister gave his press conference we’ve filled another two hospitals full of severely ill coronavirus patients.’

Sir Simon today admitted, however, that the NHS never ran out of room during the first wave and claimed that the national lockdown will mean the health service continues to have space throughout the winter to keep up normal services and tackle backlog created from cancelling thousands of operations in the first wave.  

Doctors already face a huge backlog in cancelled or postponed non-urgent operations and procedures, on which they are now desperately trying to catch up. A resurgence in people who need saving from Covid would put this progress in jeopardy. 

Sir Simon’s comments come after leaked documents today revealed intensive care units are no busier than normal for this time of year for most trusts, pouring extra cold water on claims the NHS is close to being overrun.  

Eighteen per cent of critical care beds available across the health service nationally, which is normal for the autumn.

Data from the NHS Secondary Uses Services, seen by The Telegraph, claims to show that even in the worst hit region, the North West, seven per cent of critical care beds are still free. 

IS THE NHS ACTUALLY QUIETER THAN USUAL?

NHS hospitals in England appear quieter than usual for this time of year even though they are treating more than 9,000 patients with coronavirus.

A leaked document claims 84 per cent of all hospital beds were occupied across the country yesterday, which is lower than the 92 per cent recorded during autumn last year. 

Bed occupancy has not averaged lower than 85 per cent in any normal three-month period for the past decade.

The only exception to this was between April and June this year, when it stood at 64 per cent because hospitals were forced to turf out thousands of non-Covid patients to make space for the epidemic. 

Regional differences in the coronavirus outbreak mean some places are feeling more strain than others – one major hospital trust in Liverpool is already be treating more Covid-19 patients than it was in the spring. 

Medics fear the numbers of people needing care for Covid-19 will become so large that they won’t be able to treat people with cancer and other serious diseases. 

But the data obtained by the HSJ shows that hospitals are less full than usual despite having 70 per cent more patients than they did in the spring.

They have around twice as many non-Covid patients – more than 70,000 on wards as of yesterday – along with 9,000 coronavirus patients, and still have at least 10,000 beds available.

At the most recent measure – during the first quarter of 2020/21 – the NHS had a total of 118,451 beds available, of which 92,596 were general hospital beds. The others were on maternity, mental health and learning disabilities units.

This is not thought to include capacity in Nightingale hospitals or private wards that have been rented out. Thousands of beds were put on standby when ministers feared a catastrophic wave of patients with coronavirus, but many were never used.

Full data has not been published about daily bed occupancy and the NHS is coming under growing pressure to show the real state of pressure on its hospitals.

 

The figures show there is still 15 per cent ‘spare capacity’ across the country – fairly normal for this time of year.

That’s even without the thousands of Nightingale hospital beds which will provide extra capacity if needed.  

Even in the North-West, the worst affected region in the ‘second wave’, only 92.9 per cent of critical care beds are currently occupied.

And in the peak of the Covid outbreak in April, critical care beds were never more than 80 per cent full, according to the data. 

There were around 5,900 critical care – or ICU – beds in the NHS in January 2020, according to the King’s Fund. 

It is not clear how many Covid-19 patients are on critical care wards as this data is not available. But the number of patients on a ventilator – 952 on November 3 – gives a rough idea. However, not all patients on ventilators are classed as being in ICU. 

The SUS documents show there were 9,138 Covid-19 patients in general hospital beds in England as of 8am on November 2. 

Yesterday this figure was 10,377 – the highest it has been since the beginning of May but following a drop of patients in hospital at the weekend. 

It means Covid-19 patients are accounting for around 10 per cent of general and acute beds in hospitals, which has gradually been increasing over the month of October.

However, there are still more than 13,000 beds available on general wards, considering there are almost 114,000 NHS beds in England overall. 

MailOnline revealed at the height of the first wave in April that Covid-19 patients never made up more than 30 per cent of the total beds occupied. Just under 19,000 patients out of 70,000 in hospitals at that time had Covid-19. 

An NHS source told The Telegraph: ‘As you can see, our current position in October is exactly where we have been over the last five years.’

Commenting on the new data, Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: ‘This is completely in line with what is normally available at this time of year. 

‘What I don’t understand is that I seem to be looking at a different data-set to what the Government is presenting.

‘Everything is looking at normal levels and free bed capacity is still significant, even in high dependency units and intensive care, even though we have a very small number across the board. We are starting to see a drop in people in hospitals.

‘Tier Three restrictions are working phenomenally well and, rather than locking down, I would be using this moment to increase capacity.’  

The leaked documents also show that no intensive care units are in Covid-19 Pandemic Critcon levels above two. 

Critcon levels – used to give an idea of how stretched a hospital is – at three and four are enacted during a ‘full stretch’ and ’emergency’, when other wards need to be used for critical care. 

But 146 units out of 222 (65 per cent) are still at ‘Critcon 0’, which is defined as ‘business as usual’ by the NHS.

Just 29 units (13 per cent) are at ‘Critcon 1’, defined as the usual impact of a bad winter, according to documents seen by The Telegraph. 

Only 19 (eight per cent) are at ‘Critcon 2’, described as a ‘medium surge’. Twenty-eight units have not reported their position.

But Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said there is ‘no point’ using national bed occupancy rates to argue that lockdown isn’t needed.

He tweeted: ‘Many hospital CEOs in the north tell us they are under extreme pressure. Many of them say their Covid-19 patient numbers are above what they saw in the peak of the first phase. 

‘The argument from NHS CEOs in rest of country is many are already seeing high worrying levels of general bed occupancy. And if the Covid pattern in the north is repeated elsewhere in the country a month later, it’ll coincide with winter when NHS is at its most stretched.’This means trusts won’t be able to give the treatment and quality of care they would want, to all who need it. None of this is reflected in, or affected by, current national ICU bed occupancy rates. They are irrelevant as far as this risk is concerned.’

NORTH WEST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

NORTH WEST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

NORTH EAST AND YORKSHIRE: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

NORTH EAST AND YORKSHIRE: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

EAST OF ENGLAND: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

EAST OF ENGLAND: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

MIDLANDS: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

MIDLANDS: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

LONDON: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

LONDON: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

SOUTH EAST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

SOUTH EAST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

SOUTH WEST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)

SOUTH WEST: How many patients are in hospital (top) and on ventilation (bottom)



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