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The BIG Drive Home

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Nightingale hospitals placed on standby as senior medic warns more virus deaths ‘baked in’

Written by on 12 October 2020

More coronavirus deaths are already “baked in”, the public has been warned, as three NHS Nightingale hospitals were put on standby to reopen.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, revealed there has been a “marked pickup” of COVID-19 cases since early September.

He said given more people have caught the disease, that will inevitably lead to “baked in additional deaths”.

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More people are in hospital now than on the day the first lockdown began

More patients are also now in hospital – the latest figure was 3,451 – than on the day the first national lockdown was imposed on 23 March, when it was 3,097.

Presenting a new “heat map”, Prof Van-Tam said cases in northwest England have been rising first among those aged 16-29, but are now beginning to “creep” over to more vulnerable age groups.

Coronavirus age group heat map
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Prof Van-Tam showed a heat map of coronavirus cases by age

That pattern is “likely to be followed” in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, he cautioned at a Downing Street news briefing on Monday.

Meanwhile, NHS Nightingale hospitals – set up during the first peak to stop the health service being overwhelmed – are being told to prepare to start accepting patients in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate.

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Nightingale hospitals put on standby

This is because around 40% of all cases are concentrated in the North West, according to Prof Jane Eddleston, who also spoke at the news conference.

Northern England has particularly high case numbers because there they “never dropped as far as they did in the South”, added Prof Van-Tam.

But he said it was a “concern” that bigger increases in the weekly case rate had spread south “in a matter of a few days” and that “pretty much” every area is seeing cases rise.

Map showing weekly coronavirus case rate (left) and the rate change (right)
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Case rate increases are also growing in the south

“The COVID situation is building nationally, particularly in the North West and the North East,” Prof Van-Tam said.

“There is a massive collective responsibility on every citizen now to play their part in defeating this virus and getting it back under control.”

It comes ahead of Boris Johnson preparing to carve England into three tiers depending on how prevalent the coronavirus is in a given area, with some set for further restrictions.

At the top level, these are expected to include the forced closure of pubs and bars.

The prime minister will lay out his plans in a statement to parliament at 3,30pm, and then hold a news conference at around 7pm.

Pedestrians and shoppers, some wearing face masks as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus, walk in the high street in west London on October 11, 2020. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline the new regime on Monday as rates of Covid 19 infection surge particularly in the north, worsening a national death toll of more than 42,000 which is already the worst in Europe. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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More than 600,000 people have now tested positive since the pandemic began

Over the weekend, the total number of coronavirus cases recorded in the UK passed 600,000 – rising by 12,872 to 603,716.

65 more people also died within four weeks of catching the virus, taking the total to 42,825 since the pandemic began.