Coronavirus cases continue to rise, putting “unsustainable” pressure on the NHS, experts have warned.
There was a sharp spike in cases in the run up to Christmas, but it continues to rise – and there is no sign of when it might stop.
The warning comes as NHS staff say they are under tremendous pressure to deal with the crisis.
Anthony Gordon, professor of intensive care medicine at Imperial College London and an advisor in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, said the doctors’ situation could continue to deteriorate for some time.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “We’ve seen a steady increase since before Christmas.
“We had seen the cases again in October and November, but before Christmas there was a big spike, a lot more referrals every day, and it has continued steadily ever since.
“We are concerned that we do not know when this will stop as more cases are coming.
“It takes about a week for people to get seriously ill, so that number could still go up, and we’re very concerned about that.”
He urged people to go beyond government guidelines whenever possible and only leave the house if it was really necessary to lower the rate of transmission of Covid-19.
The English director of the Royal College of Nursing, Mike Adams, said the country was in the “eye of the storm” because of the coronavirus and the situation was “unsustainable”.
He told Sky News: “We have gotten into this pandemic with a huge shortage of medical staff, especially nurses.
Then when you add in the exhaustion, tiredness and sickness rates that have gradually crept in, this is the result nobody wants, but it really is a last resort for people to get out of their vacation.
“In the long run, this will be detrimental to workers.
“People need a break – they need to rest.
“So it’s the eye of the storm and a situation that is not sustainable.”
One solution proposed by policy makers is a new national lockdown.
However, it turned out today that the transmission of the disease has probably tripled even during the November lockdown in England due to the high infection rate in the new Covid variant.
Professor Axel Gandy, Chair of Statistics at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Overall, we found that the new variant increases the number of reproductions – that is the average number of infected people per infected person in the Future – by about 0.4-0.7.
“That doesn’t sound like much, but the difference is pretty extreme.
“Under the lockdown conditions in November, the reproduction rate was in the region of 0.9, and with the old variant this would mean that cases would decrease by about 30 percent within two to three weeks, while with the new variant they would triple .
“The number of cases would increase by a factor of three, so there is a big difference in how easily this virus spreads.”
On a positive note, however, he said that since the lockdown was eased in November, it didn’t look like there was any evidence that school-age children would be more likely to wear the new variant.
His words come after Imperial’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis confirmed the variant is spreading faster.
Dr. Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, said she feared the added pressure in London hospitals to deal with the volume of Covid patients was spreading across the country.
When asked if the problems were “becoming more widespread,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “That seems to be happening.
“Everyone has seen what is going on in London and the pressure on both organizations and employees, and we fear that it is only a matter of time before it spreads to other parts of the country and we already are start to see that.
“It’s really important that we try to stop the transmission in the community as it leads to hospitalizations.”
Dr. Pittard said employees were “tired and exhausted” due to the increased workload after several hectic months of dealing with Covid patients.