‘Extreme concern’ as another 53,135 coronavirus infections recorded
Written by on 29 December 2020
The UK has reported another 53,135 cases of coronavirus, the highest recorded daily total since the pandemic began.
There were also 414 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, compared with 357 on Monday, taking the official UK total to 71,567.
A total of 41,385 new cases of the virus were reported on Monday, the previous highest ever daily increase.
As of Tuesday’s figures, the total number of positive tests across the country since the pandemic began stands at 2,382,865.
The latest daily figures come after it was revealed that England’s hospitals are now treating more patients than during the peak of the first wave in April.
According to NHS England, there were 21,787 patients in NHS hospitals in England as of 8am on Tuesday, compared with 20,426 on Monday, and 18,974 at the peak of the first wave on 12 April.
The latest UK-wide hospital stats are only available up until 22 December, when 21,286 people with COVID-19 were in hospital across the four home nations. But that is only slightly less than the 21,683 recorded on 12 April.
Five of the seven NHS regions in England are currently reporting a record number of coronavirus hospital patients – Eastern England, London, the Midlands, south-east England and south-west England.
The remaining two regions – north-east and north-west England, remain below peak levels that were seen in the middle of November.
‘Hospitals under immense pressure’
Dr Susan Hopkins, the senior medical advisor for Public Health England, said: “We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of COVID-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable.”
The record number is likely to have been inflated by a delay in reporting data over Christmas, meaning some of the positive tests predate 25 December.
“Whilst the number of cases reported today include some from over the festive period these figures are largely a reflection of a real increase,” Dr Hopkins added.
It is not possible to make direct comparisons with the level of infection during the first wave of the virus, because mass testing was only introduced in the UK in May, but it has been estimated there may have been as many 100,000 cases a day at the peak in late March and early April.
Dr Sonia Adesara says London hospitals are filling up with COVID patients and they might not be able to cope with the numbers if it continues.
Margaret Keenan, the 90-year-old grandmother-of-four who became the world’s first patient to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside a clinical trial, received her second jab on Tuesday.
In the 13 days following her vaccination on 8 December, more than 520,000 people in England received their first jab, according to official figures.
‘Resilience is running out in the NHS’
But ministers have been warned that the UK must double its vaccination target to two million a week in order to avoid a third wave of infections.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, said: “Now again we are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.
“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.”
NHS chief says thank you in Xmas message
Sounding a note of hope, Sir Simon added: “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.
“That perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead.”
The government hopes that the imminent approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will allow an expansion of the vaccination programme, which is currently based only on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.