England’s chief medical officer has vividly warned the NHS of the “most dangerous situation” as the pandemic causes record deaths and hospital admissions.
Chris Whitty has said the only way to prevent preventable deaths is to keep the public at home wherever possible.
“Hospitals are always busy in the winter, but the NHS in some parts of the country is now facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember,” wrote Prof. Whitty in the Sunday Times.
“If the virus continues on this path, hospitals will soon be in real trouble.
“The already stretched relationship between staff and patient is becoming unacceptable even in the intensive care unit.”
The number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 is at a record high in England, while the official coronavirus death toll in the UK exceeded 80,000 on Saturday and laboratory-confirmed cases topped three million.
Prof. Whitty praised the public for their efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 and took note of the hope that various vaccines offer. However, he repeated other experts, saying it would take a few weeks for the bumps to reduce the number of people hospitalized.
The Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSC) has stated that expanding the community testing program to include more people without symptoms “is crucial, as roughly one in three” who contract Covid-19 is asymptomatic.
The DHSC said councils in England would be encouraged to test those unable to work from home during the lockdown – a move likely to involve police officers, supermarket workers and taxi drivers.
Side flow tests, which can produce results in as little as 30 minutes, are at the heart of the program, whose eligibility has now “expanded to all 317 local authorities,” DHSC said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said targeted asymptomatic testing followed by isolation is “highly effective in breaking chains of transmission”.
However, doctor Angela Raffle, a public health advisor at the University of Bristol Medical School, said the increasing tests of the lateral flow were “very worrying”.
“Any benefit from finding symptom-free cases is outweighed by the many other cases of infection that these tests miss,” she said.
“Outbreaks have already been known to occur because people were mistakenly calmed down by a negative side flow result, causing them to go to work while experiencing symptoms.”
As the vaccine rollout gains momentum, more than half a million over 80s will be receiving invitations to sign up for a sting this week.
The first 130,000 invitations are due to arrive over the weekend as the government aims to achieve its goal of offering vaccinations to nearly 14 million vulnerable people in the UK by mid-February.
Boris Johnson said, “The weeks ahead are extremely challenging, but today is another significant step forward in the race to protect the public and fight the virus.”
Some experts have deemed the current lockdown measures not strict enough given the more transferable variant that has spread rapidly in many parts of the country.