Covid hospital cases surge towards first wave peak as fears grow for NHS

The number of Covid patients receiving treatment is heading towards the peak the UK saw in April, reports PA news agency.

Hospitals in the south of England have seen a "real rise in pressure", with paramedics in the capital receiving almost 8,000 call-outs daily.

Boxing Day was hailed as one of London Ambulance Service's (LAS) 'busiest ever days'.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the BBC: "We're seeing a real rise in the pressure for hospital services, but also other types of NHS services as well… ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services".

Addressing London and the south, Ms Cordery added: "Part of the issue is many more people coming through the door with Covid, but also people coming through the door with other conditions as well."

The 7,918 calls received by LAS on December 26 was a rise of more than 2,500 on the 5,217 received on the same day last year.

Medics are also receiving support from other ambulance services in the south.

LAS said in a statement: "Like NHS organisations across the country, demand for our services has risen sharply over the past weeks and we are now taking up to 8,000 999 calls a day compared to 5,500 on a typical 'busy' day.

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"Our colleagues in emergency departments are also under pressure receiving our patients as quickly as they can.

"We are working urgently with NHS partners to reduce any delays."

According to the latest government data, 30,000 people tested positive for Covid, and there has been a rise of 30% of positive tests over the last seven days.

3,351 people have died from the virus over the past week, a rise of 119 or 3.7%, from the latest data from December 27.

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There were 21,286 people in hospital with coronavirus across the UK on December 22 – the last day for which data is available.

That is slightly less than the 21,683 patients recorded on April 12.

Infection rates in England are currently highest in areas of Essex, London and other parts of the south east.

The Government is expected to review whether more areas will be moved into the highest tier on December 30, as the new highly infectious variant of the disease spreads across the country and the globe.

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The new Tier 4 lockdown measures affect 24 million people, approximately 43% of the UK's population.

Downing Street is due to meet with officials at the Department for Education on Monday to discuss whether schools should be kept open in the event that harsher measures are needed, it is understood.

Ms Cordery, who leads the group which represents NHS trusts in England, said people "should be under no illusions that this is one of the most challenging times for the NHS".

 "It is vital that everyone heeds the new rules and restrictions in the run-up to the New Year and beyond."

Figures for deaths and cases are likely to be higher as Scotland is not releasing death data between December 24 and 28, and Northern Ireland is not providing either case or death data over the same period.

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