The number of patients being admitted to hospital with coronavirus is set to peak within the next 10 days, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty said he hoped the peak in infections had already happened in the South East, East and London, where there was a surge in the Kent variant.
But he said it will be later elsewhere – while the peak in deaths will be later still.
A further 1,280 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, while there were another 55,761 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
The number of hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England was 3,840 on January 13, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
This is down from a record 4,134 Covid-19 hospital admissions reported for January 12, and down 3% on the equivalent figure a week ago on January 6.
During the first wave of the virus, admissions peaked at 3,099 on April 1 2020.
Professor Whitty told a Downing Street press conference: “The peak of deaths I fear is in the future, the peak of hospitalisations in some parts of the country may be around about now and beginning to come off the very, very top.
“Because people are sticking so well to the guidelines we do think the peaks are coming over the next week to 10 days for most places in terms of new people into hospital.”
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stressed however that it is a “suppressed peak” that would “boil over for sure” if controls are eased.
He said: “This is not the natural peak that’s going to come down on its own, it’s coming down because of the measures that are in place.
On Friday 15 January 2021, 55,761 new cases and 1,280 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported across the UK.
A total of 3,234,946 people have now received the first dose of a #vaccine.
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) January 15, 2021
“Take the lid off now and it’s going to boil over for sure and we’re going to end up with a big problem.
“And that’s a lesson about making sure it’s all cooled down enough before you get to that position.
“So I don’t think we should view the point as a natural turning point in the disease, it is a suppressed peak that we need to keep on top of.”
Their comments came as Boris Johnson warned that the NHS is facing “extraordinary pressures”.
The Prime Minister said that “this is not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve”.