The number of Covid cases and hospitalisations have surged to record highs in England over Christmas.
NHS chiefs in the south of the country have now warned services are being stretched to levels not seen since the first wave in April, and they are expected to get worse due to the increased socialising during the festive period.
For anyone who has understandably stepped back from the news over the last few days, here’s where things stand...
The number of further lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded in a single day in the UK hit a new high of 41,385 as of 9am Monday, rising above 40,000 for the first time.
Cases figures do not include information from Scotland and Northern Ireland, which did not report data between December 24 and 28, meaning the true number is even higher.
Modelling estimates of the number of daily infections during the peak of the first wave in March and April vary but range from 144,000 to 285,00.
The latest data from two of these models suggests the true number of daily infections on December 20 in the UK was around 100,00.
As reported on Monday, England’s hospitals now have more Covid-19 patients than during April’s first-wave peak and a health boss warned doctors and nurses are “back in the eye of the storm”.
NHS England figures show there were 20,426 patients in NHS hospitals in England as of 8am on Monday, compared to the 18,974 patients recorded on April 12.
Of these, 1,641 have required mechanical ventilation. This is 57% of the highest daily total during the peak of the first wave, 2,881 on 12 April.
What’s concerning is the lag between cases being detected and symptoms becoming severe enough to require hospital treatment – typically there is a lag of a few weeks between people testing positive for the virus, then a rise in hospitalisations, and then a rise in deaths.
Therefore the inevitable rise in cases and hospitalisations that will occur due to an increase in socialising over the Christmas period will not happen until early January.
Dr Nick Scriven of the Society for Acute Medicine, called the trend “extremely worrying” and said “systems will again be stretched to the limit”.
“It is not ‘just the case’ of using the Nightingale hospital as there are simply no staff for them to run as they were originally intended (mini intensive care units),” he said.
“They could play a role perhaps if used as rehabilitation units for those recovering but, again, where do we find the specialist staff – the NHS simply does not have the capacity to spare anyone.”
Rise in cases
Just last week, all but one of the areas with the highest increase in cases – York – over a seven-day period were in the south of England.
But on Monday, York was joined by Gateshead, Wirral, Rutland and Stockport.
Sefton, Cumbria and North Yorkshire now also feature in the top 20.
The figures below show the increase in cases, with cases per 100,000 people in brackets. For context, the government’s own threshold for quarantining overseas travellers is 20 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day average.
Brits visiting countries with higher case rates are required to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.
Currently in England the region with the highest case rate is Thurrock with a staggering 1,115.1 cases per 100,000 people.
Where cases are rising the fastest
- York 109% (264.9 cases per 100,000 people)
- Isle of Wight 101% (210.2)
- Gateshead 82% (260.3)
- Cornwall and Isles of Scilly 72% (124.2)
- Rutland 68% (172.8)
- Wirral 64% (225.6)
- Windsor and Maidenhead 57% (491.3)
- Stockport 53% (208.9)
- Southampton 53% (329.5)
- Sefton 47% (182.3)
- Cumbria 46% (232.0
- Bournemouth 45% (225.9)
- West Sussex 44% (306.0)
- Dorset 42% (123.1)
- Hampshire 42% (292.1)
- Wiltshire 41% (156.4)
- Swindon 40% (269.6)
- Bath and north-east Somerset 34% (159.4)
- North Yorkshire 34% (187.5)