THE NUMBER of coronavirus patients in hospital is HIGHER now than when the whole country was put into lockdown in March, the NHS Director has warned.
Top health service boss Stephen Powis delivered a grim warning this morning saying hospital beds are filling up fast with Covid-19 patients ahead of the PM announcing fresh lockdown restrictions.
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Dr Powis said this afternoon at a Downing Street briefing with top Government scientists: "We now have more patients in hospital with Covid-19 than we did when the Government announced restrictions on March 23."
The NHS chief warned that in four weeks, hospitals will be treating more patients than during the peak of the first wave.
He said the health service was readying itself for a fresh battle against the virus and a handful of Nightingale hospitals will be mobilised to ensure there is enough space.
The north west of England is seeing the worst of the rises in hospital admissions with 40 per cent of Britain's new infections.
The North West had 180 hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Friday and, as of Sunday had a total of 1,218 patients in hospital.
Greater Manchester hospitals are braced to bear the brunt of the second wave of coronavirus, with the number of patients in hospital rocketing up eight times what it was just over a month ago and triple the number of sick Brits in ICU beds.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom from the top doctor, who added: "We are in a better position than we were in March and in April, we have learnt better treatments, we have learnt better ways to deliver oxygen so not so many people will need mechanical ventilation.
"The rate of increase in infections is not at the doubling time we saw in March."
The crucial R number has to be pushed below 1 to stop critical care beds from filling up, Dr Powis said.
"(If the R is above 1) as surely as night follows day, hospital admissions will rise. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan van Tam said people should be concerned more about hospital admissions than about case numbers, as the number of new infections can't be easily compared to the March numbers.
He said: "Comparing (case numbers in the first peak) with the second peak ….is an apples and pears comparison.
But he warned, the number of hospital admissions will rise – it's just a matter of time.
"Actually the hospital admissions we have right now are related to infections, we had 3 weeks ago, hospital admissions we have now relate to a time when there were fewer cases of Covid-19.
"As patients become ill with Covid-19, they don't immediately go into hospital. It takes some time before they become ill enough to go to hospital, and if they do go to hospital, they don't die immediately."
Medical lead at top Manchester hospital Jane Eddleston said that 30 per cent of critical care beds are already taken up by patients with Covid.
And the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate will be readied to deal with new hospital admissions.
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