England’s chief medical service warned on Monday that the coming weeks would be the worst pandemic for the National Health Service when he appealed to the public to strictly follow guidelines designed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Chris Whitty said that political leaders are considering tightening the rules because a new, more transferable variant of COVID-19 exacerbates an already difficult situation. Hospitals abound and exhausted medical staff are under pressure.
“I think everyone accepts that this is the most dangerous time we have really had in numbers in the NHS,” Whitty told the BBC.
The warning comes when hospitals in England are struggling to keep pace with a rise in coronavirus infections that have seen the number of beds filled by COVID-19 patients steadily increase for more than a month. English hospitals now treat 55% more COVID-19 cases than during the pandemic’s first peak in April.
“In a way, it can be useful to tip with the rules, but the most important thing is that everyone follows the spirit of the rules that are there right now,” said Whitty. “Everyone knows what they need to do. And I think that’s the key – minimize the number of contacts. ”
England went into a third national lockdown last week that closed all major shops, schools, colleges and universities for at least six weeks. But the police report many violations of rules that require people to stay at home except for essential reasons such as exercise and food purchases.
Prime Minister Jamie Davies’ spokesman said rules allowed people to be outdoors to “exercise, not socialize”, but there is confusion about where the line should be drawn – for example whether to go with a takeaway coffee counts as exercise. When asked if people were allowed to sit alone on a park bench: “Let me remove it and come back to you,” he said.
The government hopes that the restrictions will reduce the burden on the NHS while strengthening a nationwide mass vaccination program. Seven large-scale vaccination centers are open for Monday, joining about 1,000 other locations across the country, including hospitals, GPs and some pharmacies.
At a center in Stevenage, north of London, medical staff who administered the shots described the atmosphere filled with relief and joy.
“They have been quite emotional indeed, really pleased that there is some hope at the end of this tunnel, this very long tunnel for everyone,” said Caroline Shepherd, clinical expert on vaccinations at the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust. “Some people are quite tearful and say ‘I’m really happy to be here, thank you very much, we’re really grateful for the NHS” “.
More than 2 million people in the UK have so far received a COVID-19 vaccine, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a center in Bristol. The government’s goal is to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, targeting people over the age of 70, frontline medical staff and others who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. It will protect people who account for almost 90% of coronavirus-related deaths and may make it possible to limit restrictions, the government said.
“We can not be complacent,” says Johnson. “The worst thing now would be for us to allow the success of launching a vaccine program to foster some form of complacency over the state of the pandemic.”