THE UK is facing the most dangerous four to six weeks of the Covid pandemic so far, a top doctor has warned.
Dr Kevin Fong, an anaesthetist in London, said the NHS was running “super hot” with pressures of a surge in Covid patients and staff shortages.
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Paramedics transfer a patient from an ambulance into Southend University hospital in Essex, January 5Credit: PA:Press Association
Covid hospital patients in England have surpassed the April peak. There are now more than 26,000 virus patients in England’s hospitals
He pleaded with the public to help reduce cases of the coronavirus, as England enters its third national lockdown today.
Statistics show one in 50 people currently have Covid – regarded as “really quite a large number indeed” by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty at last night’s Downing Street press briefing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said when the number of patients in hospitals in England is now 40 per cent higher than at the first peak in April, tighter restrictions were the only option.
Hospitals are bucking under the pressure of the post-Christmas surge in patients, and was at risk of being “overwhelmed” within three weeks if no action was taken.
THE MOST SERIOUS POSITION OF THE PANDEMIC
Dr Fong, also an advisor to NHS England’s Emergency Preparedness Resilience & Response team for Covid-19, was asked what the situation was like in hospitals now.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we’ve got coming up now the most dangerous 4-6 weeks of the pandemic, and we need this last push to get us through.
Talking of rumours that the NHS is not under pressure from Covid deniers, Dr Fong said: “The whole country is busy at the moment, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
“We are running super hot, and this is a very difficult time.
Ambulances lined up outside Royal London Hospital on January 5Credit: Getty Images – Getty
“I have been a doctor for 22 years, trained in anaesthesia and intensive care. I spent my Christmas moving patients from hospital to hospital trying to find spare beds we could park them into.
“You can believe me the hospitals are full, or you can believe people sitting at a keyboard who’ve never put on a shred of PPE, or seen the inside of an intensive care unit, let alone during Covid-19.”
Dr Fong pleaded with the UK to help “choke the number of patients coming through the door with Covid-19”.
He revealed intensive care staff are “at full stretch”, partly because staffing shortages due to self-isolation is a “huge issue”.
“This is as hard as I’ve ever seen the teams work, and so we are grateful the lockdown has come, it gives us a fighting chance,” Dr Fong said.
“But I’ve never seen anything like it.”
NHS Million – a Twitter account run by NHS staff – also said on yesterday it was “devastated that a COVID hoax conspiracy is gaining prominence” and that the NHS needs support “more than ever”.
It comes as Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of the national infections service at Public Health England (PHE), said now was the most “serious” point of the pandemic.
“This position is the most serious we’ve been in so far this pandemic,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“And we know that the cases in the community are still rising. And that means that we expect to see further admissions to hospital, and we expect to see further deaths.”
However, she said that medics had gained experience over the last year in treating Covid-19 and had access to more treatments.
HOSPITALS WILL BE STRETCHED FOR WEEKS
The latest data from NHS England showed there were 26,467 Covid-19 patients in hospital as of 8am on January 5 – a week-on-week increase of 21 per cent.
In London, the number stood at a record 6,816 patients, up 27 per cent in a week.
Almost 2,900 people are being admitted to hospitals in England every day, according to the Government dashboard, higher than at the start of April 2020 when the figure reached 2,700.
The number of people predicted to have Covid-19 right now and since the summer, according to the Office for National Statistics
A slide showed at yesterday’s No10 briefing
Professor Whitty said at last night’s No10 briefing that because of the spike in people being admitted to hospital there will “inevitably” be an increase in the number of coronavirus deaths later this month.
Speaking after, Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said some hospitals are already “pretty full”.
And he does not expect admissions to ease for “another two to three weeks” following the start of the new lockdown.
He said: “The numbers needing hospital treatment are going to keep rising.
“If they do double in the next three weeks, as more people who are already infected need hospitalisation, things are going to get very difficult in hospitals across a lot of the country.”
It comes after NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said patients were being admitted to hospital at an “alarming rate”.
He said: “There are almost 9,000 more Covid patients in hospital beds – the equivalent of nearly 18 hospitals – than there was on Christmas Day, just 10 days ago.
“We know that number is going to continue to rise over the next few weeks.”
Yesterday a further 830 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
And the UK recorded 60,916 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases as of 9am on Tuesday – the highest daily total reported so far.