More England COVID patients in hospital than at April peak

LONDON (AFP) – England is “back in the eye” of the coronavirus storm, health chiefs warned yesterday, with as many patients in hospital as during the initial peak in April.

A new strain of the virus appears to be behind the recent upsurge in cases, heaping further pressure on the state-run National Health Service (NHS) during its busiest winter period.

NHS England figures showed there were 20,426 COVID patients in the country’s hospitals on Monday, compared to the 18,974 peak recorded during the first wave.

The number of positive tests recorded over a 24-hour period also hit a new high of 41,385 on Monday.

However, case figures do not include Scotland and Northern Ireland, which did not report over the holiday period.

A welcome sign at the entrance of St Thomas’ Hospital, one of several hospitals around Britain handling the initial phase of a COVID-19 immunisation programme, in London. PHOTO: AP

“Many of us have lost family, friends, colleagues and – at a time of year when we would normally be celebrating – a lot of people are understandably feeling anxious, frustrated and tired,” said NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens.

“And now again we are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.”

Britain is pinning its hopes on its mass vaccination programme, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab expected to receive approval shortly, according to reports.

“We think that by late spring with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country COVID vaccination,” said Stevens.