Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Number of people in hospital with Covid in eastern England exceeds first wave
17 December 2020, 16:57 | Updated: 17 December 2020, 17:04
Three of England's seven NHS regions now have more people hospitalised with Covid-19 than they did at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, figures show.
Eastern England has become the latest region to surpass the first-wave peak, with 1,734 hospital patients having a confirmed coronavirus infection on 16 December.
At the beginning of the year, the number of people in hospitals with Covid in eastern England peaked at 1,679 on 12 April.
It has become the third of England's seven NHS regions to reach a higher figure than seen in the first-wave peak.
On 16 November, new records were set in the North West and also the North East/Yorkshire, though both of these regions have since seen a slight fall in patients with the virus.
In three other regions, the number of patients with Covid-19 is edging ever closer to their first-wave peaks.
The South East had 2,195 hospital patients with confirmed Covid-19 on 16 December, close to the peak of 2,347 on 14 April.
In the Midlands, the number of patients has remained just above 3,000 for the past few weeks, near the first-wave peak of 3,430 on 12 April.
And in the South West, 1,021 patients were recorded on 16 December, slightly under the first-wave peak of 1,080 on 15 April.
Only in London is the level of Covid-19 patients well below that seen during the first wave - though in the capital numbers have started to rise sharply, with 2,543 patients in the city having the virus on 16 December, up from 1,787 a week ago.
The first-wave peak in London was 5,201 patients on 9 April.
One major London health trust said it is deferring some routine procedures as it treats high numbers of coronavirus patients.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which serves around 2.5 million people in east London, said it has moved to the "high pressure" phase of its winter escalation plan.
A Barts Health spokesman said: "We are treating high numbers of patients with Covid-19, and in line with our winter escalation plan we have moved into a 'high pressure' phase and are taking steps to keep our patients safe.
"These include deferring some routine procedures over the coming days so we can redeploy staff and increase the number of critical care and general beds available."
The trust, which operates across four major hospital sites The Royal London, St Bartholomew's, Whipps Cross and Newham, said the plan will not affect cancer patients and that people will be contacted directly if their elective procedures need to be postponed.
The total number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at 15,465 on 16 December, up from 13,467 a week earlier.
During the first wave of the virus, this number peaked at 18,974 on 12 April.
All figures are taken from the government's coronavirus dashboard.