A further 529 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital across the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 81,431. It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock pleaded with the public to follow coronavirus rules and reduce all social contact that is not “absolutely” necessary.
Meanwhile, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens told MPs that “in many parts of the country” coronavirus “is spreading out of control”.
He told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: “In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number.
“So this is a very serious moment for the country and for the National Health Service.
“It’s worth remembering that this affects all ages – a quarter of the Covid admissions to hospital right now are for people aged under 55.”
He later told a Downing Street press conference the new variant of coronavirus is “highly contagious and it is putting the NHS under very significant pressure”.
Speaking this evening, he said: “The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules.
“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.
“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed: act like you have the virus.”
Mr Hancock echoed PM Boris Johnson warned this afternoon tougher lockdown measures may be needed as he announced that around 2.4 million vaccines for COVID-19 have now been put in people’s arms.
The Prime Minister stressed “now is the moment for maximum vigilance” amid increasing calls for tougher lockdown restrictions as case rates soar in several parts of the country.
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During a visit to a vaccine centre in Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, the Prime Minister said: “We’re going to keep the rules under constant review.
“Where we have to tighten them, we will.
“We have rules in place already which, if they are properly followed, we believe can make a huge, huge difference.
“It’s now that people need to focus… when they’re out shopping, whether they’re buying cups of coffee in the park or whatever it happens to be, they need to think about spreading the disease.”
Mr Johnson said that “more important than us just pushing out new rules”, people should follow existing guidance.
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Meanwhile, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said the “overriding message” was Scotland was now in the “most perilous and serious position since the start of the pandemic”.
She urged people to stay at home, saying: “At the moment we are in a really dangerous situation.
Speaking at today’s Scottish Government Coronavirus briefing, she said: “I hope we will see case numbers stabilise in the days to come but that will only be possible and, if we achieve it, will only be sustainable if we all stay at home.”
He added today: “I think that there’s a risk of getting too lost in a marathon or a sprint. The reason why we’re talking of this being a marathon is it’ll take months to get through this.”
Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland warned that the pressure on hospitals would continue to mount in the days and weeks ahead and warned of further measures including “curfews”.
She said: “We will have this pressure on the system I think now for a couple of weeks and we have to ready ourselves for that.”