More patients in hospital with coronavirus now than at start of lockdown

12 October 2020, 14:16 | Updated: 12 October 2020, 16:02

By Megan White

There are now more patients in hospital with coronavirus than there were when the Government ordered the lockdown in March, the medical director of NHS England has revealed.

Professor Stephen Powis told a Downing Street press conference that hospital admissions are rising, especially in areas with high infection rates such as the north west.

He also cautioned that it would take "a number of weeks" before the benefit of any additional measures put in place this week are shown in hospital admissions.

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Professor Powis spoke alongside England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, who said there had clearly been a "marked pick-up" in coronavirus case, which would result in more deaths.

The press conference came ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's address to MPs on the new restrictions set to be implemented in some areas with a new "traffic light" lockdown system.

"As the infection rate has begun to grow across the country, hospital infections have started to rise," Professor Powis said.

"It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the North West.

"In the over-65s - particularly the over-85s - we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking."

At a briefing to present the latest data, Professor Van-Tam said that although there was more testing now than at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, it was clear there was a resurgence in cases.

"The key point is that having had a rather flat summer, with very low amounts of Covid-positive patients in the UK, you can see that from early September there has been a marked pick-up," he said.

There is a lag between cases being identified and patients being admitted to hospital or dying.

"The hospital admissions we have now actually relate to a time when there fewer cases of Covid-19," he said.

"Already, with the cases that we know about, we have baked in additional hospital admissions and sadly we also have baked in additional deaths that are now consequent upon infections that have already happened."

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was of "concern" that coronavirus was "heating up" in more of England than a week ago.

The deputy chief medical officer made the comments as he explained a map showing the rate of change per 100,000 population by local authority between September 23-29 and September 30 to Oct 6.

He said: "It has changed in a matter of just a few days and that is clearly of concern to me."

Prof Van-Tam also warned that coronavirus was spreading from younger age groups into those aged of 60.

"There is the spread from those younger age groups into the 60 plus age group in the North West and the North East, and there are rates of change in the same places but also extending a little further south.

"And this is again of significant concern... because of course the elderly suffer a much worse course with Covid-19, they are admitted to hospital for longer periods, and they are more difficult to save."

Dr Jane Eddleston, medical lead in Greater Manchester, urged the public to "respect" the virus due to the "extremely serious" consequences it has for some patients.

She told the press briefing: "The North West has about 40% of all Covid cases at the moment and this is proving very challenging for us.

"Within Greater Manchester, we have seen a threefold increase in the number of patients admitted to intensive care in the last five weeks and an eightfold increase in the number of patients admitted to our hospitals.

"The situation at the moment is that 30% of our critical care beds are taken up with patients with Covid and this is starting to impact on the services we provide for other patients."

Dr Eddleston added: "I stress to you the importance of us taking this disease extremely seriously.

"We are still finding that a quarter of patients that are admitted to intensive care are still required to go on mechanical ventilator within 24 hours of admission. This is very serious.

"The condition produces a very profound inflammation of the lungs which does have serious consequences for patients and I would ask you all to respect the virus and follow the advice we're being given."

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