A junior doctor has described the situation in one London hospital as “aggressively overstretched” due to coronavirus patients – and is expecting the situation to worsen. Leaked figures obtained by the Health Service Journal reveal critical care units in the South East and East are operating at more than 100 per cent capacity.
The Prime Minister is also facing increasing pressure to delay the school term following the emergence of a more transmissible coronavirus mutation.
The doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Press Association oxygen supplies will have to be rationed if the number of Covid-19 patients continues to rise.
On Tuesday, the total number of daily cases rose above 50,000 for the first time, with 53,135 confirmed.
The doctor said: “We’re just aggressively overstretched – shifts which previously would have been manageable are distinctly not.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading scientist and adviser, spoke to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme about the situation. He said: “Clearly nobody wants to keep schools shut.
“But if that’s the only alternative to having exponentially growing numbers of hospitalisations, that may be required at least for a period.”
The transfer of patients from London, a Tier 4 area, to Yorkshire hospitals, in Tier 3, has not yet been confirmed.
Eye-opening statistics obtained by HSJ appeared on the internal NHS critical care capacity dashboard.
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“My real concern is that even if universities, schools, do have staggered returns or even stay closed, how easy it would be to maintain control of the virus is unclear now, given how much more transmissible this variant is.”
The new coronavirus strain may be up to 70 percent more transmissible, researchers have said.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced plans to deploy 1,500 military personnel to support implementing testing systems to allow pupils to return.
As it stands primary schools, Years 11 and 13, and children of key workers will return on January 4. Other pupils will return a week later.
Kate Green, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, has called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to provide clarity in Parliament on Wednesday about the return of schools and colleges.
She said: “Coronavirus rates are rising, and parents, staff and pupils are crying out for clarity about the start of term next week.
“Silence from the Government is not an option.
“The education secretary must come to parliament tomorrow, set out a plan for schools and colleges, and provide desperately needed leadership.”