'Unsustainable': Massive spike in cases ahead of potential Covid 'catastrophe'

·4-min read

The UK has recorded another massive surge in Covid cases, after confirming a record number of new daily cases just one day earlier.

On Tuesday, local time, the UK recorded 53,135 new Covid cases, the highest number since mass-testing began in mid-2020, after recording 41,385 new infections on Monday.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has recorded well over 2.3 million Covid cases and over 71,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Susan Hopkins, a senior medical advisor to Public Health England, said the UK is continuing to see “unprecedented levels of COVID-19 infection”, adding this was of concern particularly to hospital patients and those most vulnerable.

While Ms Hopkins did say the spike in daily cases was a reflection of reporting delays due to Christmas, the figures were “largely a reflection of a real increase”.

Coronavirus cases are continuing to surge across England with hospital admissions reaching new highs. Source: EPA via AAP
Coronavirus cases are continuing to surge across England with hospital admissions reaching new highs. Source: EPA via AAP

UK hospitals under pressure as Covid cases surge

Ambulances with Covid-19 patients have been seen queueing outside hospitals in England as the UK Health Secretary prepares to announce tougher restrictions amid surging cases.

Footage on social media appeared to show emergency vehicles lined up outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and Queen's Hospital in Romford, both in east London.

On Tuesday, NHS Providers' deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery warned pressure on the NHS was "rising at an unsustainable rate".

The Barts Health NHS Trust, which is responsible for Royal London Hospital, said in a statement it had opened an extra coronavirus ward on Sunday, PA reported.

"We are treating very high numbers of patients with Covid-19 across our hospitals, and in line with our winter escalation plan we have moved into a 'very high pressure' phase and are taking steps to keep our patients safe," it added in its statement on Tuesday.

Ambulances queued outside the Royal London Hospital, in London on Tuesday December 29, 2020.
NHS England figures show England's hospitals now have more Covid-19 patients than during April's first-wave peak. Source: PA via AAP

National action needed to prevent ‘catastrophe’

Earlier on Tuesday a leading epidemiologist who advises the government, Andrew Hayward, warned that Britain was heading for a "catastrophe" over the coming weeks if it did not take tougher action against the more infectious variant of the disease.

“We are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic, and we’re going to need decisive early national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February,” he told the BBC.

On December 19, Tier Four restrictions were imposed in parts of England, effectively banning people from meeting in person and shutting down non-essential retail.

The following week, the restrictions were extended to a larger area which covered almost half of England’s population.

The government has resisted another nationwide lockdown, though The Times did report Mr Johnson has approved placing other parts of the country under Tier Four restrictions.

UK’s new Covid variant found across the world

When announcing Tier Four restrictions on December 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rapid spread in London, the southeast and the east of England, was due to a new variant of the virus.

“Although there is considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the old variant,” Mr Johnson said.

It was previously reported before Christmas, the new variant of the virus accounted for 60 per cent of cases in London.

Though the variant of Covid-19 is believed to be significantly more infectious, there is no evidence to suggest it causes a more severe illness.

Public Health England said backwards tracing suggests the variant emerged in September this year and. was circulating at “very low low levels in the population until mid-November”.

A 'Stay Home' sign seen in London, amid Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of England is under Tier 4 restrictions, due to rising numbers of Covid cases. Source: Sipa US via AAP

“The increase in cases linked to the new variant first came to light in late November when PHE was investigating why infection rates in Kent were not falling despite national restrictions,” Public Health England said.

“We then discovered a cluster linked to this variant spreading rapidly into London and Essex.”

First case of UK Covid-19 variant detected in US

The variant has now been discovered in other countries.

On Tuesday, local time, the first reported US case of the Covid-19 variant that’s been seen in the United Kingdom was confirmed to be discovered in Colorado.

The variant was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver in Elbert County and has no travel history, state health officials said.

Denmark, France, India, South Korea and Norway are among the countries which have identified the UK variant and several countries have bar flights from the UK.

Australia has also identified two arrivals from the UK were carrying the British variant, though the nation's chief medical officer says the hotel quarantine system should still prevent its entry into the community.

With wires

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