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NHS hospitals are 10 days away from ‘critical point’, health minister warns

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
People queue up outside a coronavirus testing centre offering walk-in appointments in east London. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
People queue up outside a coronavirus testing centre offering walk-in appointments in east London. (Getty)

With coronavirus cases rising, hospital admissions are just 10 days from being at a “critical stage” in the pandemic, a health minister has warned.

Nadine Dorries hit out at critics of more stringent lockdown restrictions, saying intensive care units could soon be “overwhelmed” if COVID numbers continue to rise.

She tweeted: “Those who now claim that further measures are not needed, will in about ten days from now, when hospital admissions are at a critical stage argue that we didn’t do enough.

“We must do all we can to prevent our ICUs NHS from becoming overwhelmed.”

Her comments come after a medical leader issued a dire warning that the spread of COVID-19 “could get out of control”.

After the recent increase in COVID cases and hospitalisations, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said the “indications are not looking good” as she urged people to stick to local lockdown measures.

She said the nation was at a “tipping point” and warned coronavirus transmission could “get out of control”.

Stokes-Lampard said: “As a society, as a population, we all have a responsibility to do our best to reduce transmission because if this gets out of control, as we fear it is – and we are at that tipping point right now.

“This isn’t a joke, this isn’t scaremongering.”

A sign by Wembley Park tube Underground station in London that thanks the hardworking health service (NHS) staff who are on the front line battling the coronavirus, Thursday March 26, 2020. A national salute for the frontline healthcare workers is taking place across the UK with a mass round of applause from doorsteps, windows and balconies on Thursday at 20:00 hrs. (John Walton / PA via AP)
A sign by Wembley Park tube Underground station in London that thanks NHS staff who are on the front line battling coronavirus. (AP)

Her comments come as figures released on Wednesday showed there were a further 14,162 daily coronavirus cases in the UK.

This is the second highest daily figure in the entire pandemic, though more testing is now being carried out compared to the first wave in the spring – and the government has said over 100,000 people a day were contracting the virus at the peak in April.

Nevertheless, northern cities where the spread of the virus is faster are potentially facing tougher local lockdown measures.

Reflecting on recent figures, she told BBC Breakfast: “We will be getting more data later today but all of the indications are not looking good.

“In the last month alone we have gone from a few hundred a people a day in hospital with coronavirus, to thousands.

“Right now we have got over 3,100 people in hospital with coronavirus around the UK.”

Watch: Coronavirus in numbers: UK death toll rises to 42,515

Revealing that 500 patients are currently in intensive care, Stokes-Lampard added: “A month ago we only had 60 people in the whole of the UK in ITU beds. So we are seeing a very worrying trend at the moment…

“As the cases go up, a few weeks later hospital admissions do go up, a few weeks after that unfortunately intensive care [use] goes up and deaths go up.”

Sage adviser John Edmunds said on Tuesday that a second national lockdown was needed to deal with the uptick in positive tests.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: People queue outside a COVID-19 testing centre in Walthamstow on September 23, 2020 in London, England. Cases have risen to 5000 per day, and are at their highest since the height of lockdown in May.  (Photo by Mark Case/Getty Images)
People queue outside a COVID-19 testing centre in Walthamstow, London. (Getty)

Stokes-Lampard said that coronavirus “does not know boundaries”, adding that the country needs to “work with it, rather than trying to expect it to conform to the way that we want to live”.

On local lockdown rules, she added: “I think the variation in rules – what lockdown means in one place to another – is really difficult. It’s confusing.

“If we get simple messages – you’re in category A, B or C or red, amber or green – that will help because I think consistency is so important.”

People walk past a sign encouraging social distance in a shopping street in Solihull, central England on September 14, 2020 after the British government imposed fresh restrictions on the area after a rise in cases of the novel coronavirus. - Authorities in Britain's second city of Birmingham announced new coronavirus restrictions Friday as the nation's viral reproduction rate, or R number, exceeded 1.0 for the first time since March. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
People walk past a sign encouraging social distance in a shopping street in Solihull. (Getty)

Highlighting the need for ongoing social distancing, Stokes-Lampard added: “We can do safe social contact and that’s what I’m desperately trying to encourage. Contact and socialise at a safe distance.

“If it has got to the point where local lockdowns are essential, please stick with them.

“I’m sorry, I don’t like it any more than anybody else, but this is for the good of us all. Please let’s protect our vulnerable this winter.”

Watch: UK coronavirus cases rising but deaths remain low