Friday, 4 Dec 2020

PM told 'every hospital bed will be full by December 17' without more lockdowns

Scientists have warned the Government that every hospital bed in England will be full by December 17 unless further coronavirus restrictions are imposed.

A source said due to social distancing, there are fewer beds available anyway – and this could lead to people who need treatment being turned away.

It comes just a day after a Government report leaked to BBC Newsnight suggests a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter.

‘Ministers have been told in clear terms that if no further action is taken, at the present rate of rising infections, every hospital bed in England will be full by December 17,’ said the source.

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‘They would have no choice but to turn people away, including additional Covid patients, people who have heart attacks, cancer, road accident victims – because there would be no beds to put them in or staff to treat them. 

‘There could be a repeat here of the scenes in Lombardy in Italy at the start of the pandemic: the sick put in operating rooms or corridors.

‘Hospital admissions are forecast to go up slowly for the next few weeks but shoot up towards Christmas. 

‘People don’t realise that social distancing measures can mean only ten beds in a ward meant to take 20. 

‘And there is a finite number of trained ICU [intensive care unit] staff – you cannot do it without special training.’

A Downing Street source confirmed the Government was advised hospitals in England could run out of beds by Christmas, but declined to give an exact date.

This prediction is also thought to include the emergency ‘Nightingale’ hospital wards.

There are fears hospital beds are already running out in areas of the North East – particularly Liverpool and Greater Manchester, which have been placed in tier three of lockdown restrictions.

But these rules have helped slow the rate of infections, triggering calls for tougher measures nationally.

A senior Tory said: ‘The Prime Minister is in an impossible position. He cannot let the economy collapse but a collapse in the NHS could be worse in the short-term.

‘Having said his priority is to protect the NHS, he cannot risk hospitals being overrun. It would be disastrous at any time but much worse at Christmas.  

 ‘The risk of a permanent scar to his political and personal reputation is too great. Covid may have sealed Trump’s fate; no Conservative wants that to happen to the PM.’

It comes after hospital admissions have soared to their highest level since April. Another 1,404 people were admitted yesterday.

Another 280 deaths were recorded and 23,065 new infections.

There are currently 10,308 Covid-19 patients in NHS hospitals, up from 5,032 two weeks ago.

Scientists yesterday warned the second wave of coronavirus has reached a ‘critical stage’, with infections doubling about every nine days.

They said there needs to be a change before Christmas after estimating there are nearly 100,000 new infections each day in England, meaning the pandemic is still ‘growing exponentially’.

Lead author Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said: ‘There has to be a change. 

‘The rate of growth that we’re seeing in these data is really quite rapid. So one way or another there has to be a change before Christmas.’

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