Warning that UK risks “catastrophe” with record number of new Covid infections – BBC News

the full extent of the covid crisis facing the nhs has become more apparent today more than 50 000 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours that's yet another record for the uk and a matter of extreme concern according to public health england the head of the nhs in england says that health workers are once again in the eye of the storm while a leading scientific advisor to the uk government says urgent action is now needed to prevent what he called a catastrophe in the new year any changes to england's tear restrictions will be announced tomorrow our health correspondent catherine burns has the latest we all wanted to have a few days off over christmas but instead of being asked to come back to work this time it's a wave this time we've seen a massive increase if we continue with the current rate of admissions we are very very close to becoming overwhelmed so it is affecting anyone and everyone people are just beginning to be exhausted it's been such a long year doctors and nurses from the nhs front line telling us what it's like dealing with a pandemic that after months and months of hard work is getting worse queens hospital in romford today 20 ambulances waiting outside some on double yellow lines because the parking bays are all full at one stage you can see staff bringing hot drinks out to patients waiting in the ambulances the hospital says they were being cared for safely but that it's under considerable pressure and is asking staff to take extra shifts it's a similar picture across london and the southeast of england i'd say this is the most challenging extended period that i've ever seen and i'd like to just take the opportunity to pay tribute to the staff who have worked phenomenally hard and well more than 21 000 people are being treated in hospital for covid across the uk in wales they're dealing with their highest level of patience now the patients who are coming to itu now are a degree sicker a lot of them are desperately unwell and we've seen a real reflection of that in in the amount of patients that have died in northern ireland hospitals say they are under pressure but coping and in scotland people are being asked to stay at home over new year as cases hit a record high this new surge in cases couldn't come at a worse time of year for the nhs winter always brings extra pressures with more respiratory illnesses as well as slips trips and falls in icy weather this year on top of that and the pandemic social distancing means hospitals need to keep patients further apart and the nhs in england is operating with around 10 fewer beds than usual in england 24 million people are already living under tier 4 restrictions the highest level the government is about to decide if that's enough and this warning from a scientific advisor act now to avoid catastrophe in the new year in my view if we don't introduce tougher restrictions in areas in the north and areas that are not currently in tier four they will rise to very high levels of disease and hospitalization similar to those seen in london the nhs chief executive's annual thank you message to staff acknowledges that this year has been the toughest that most can remember but there's hope too by late spring we think that with vaccine supply continuing to come on stream we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country this covert vaccination three weeks ago margaret keenan became the first person to have a covid vaccine outside of clinical trials today she's had her second booster dose a real piece of good news but now millions more need to be vaccinated too catherine burns bbc news well one and a half thousand military personnel are to help with the roll out of mass coronavirus testing in schools in england next month they will hold online advice sessions and give telephone guidance to staff with children mostly carrying out the tests themselves but teaching unions say that schools have not been given enough time to make plans and some head teachers are calling for the government to delay the start of term our political correspondent damian gramaticus has the story empty classrooms now but will it be safe if millions of children start filling them next week or could these become incubators for the new more infectious strain of covid19 the current plan is for a staggered return with mass testing of secondary pupils and staff in many cases children themselves carrying out the tests under supervision it's not going to be easy it will be difficult we are in a national emergency but it will make a huge difference to teachers and children and hopefully mean that schools will remain open the government wants children back home schooling for many isn't viable lacking the support in the space the computers and ipads to make it work but scientists unions and head teachers are all urging a delay for now the idea is that the military have already been running testing will help not in schools but remotely giving guidance online or over the phone and the plan envisages less than one soldier per school are educationists we can support the government it's good we're going to have some members of the army but for three and a half thousand secondary schools 1500 troops doing webinars probably isn't the government response that we were looking for in some parts of the uk the return to school is already happening later in england and northern ireland children are due to start next week in wales most should be back by the 11th of january in scotland it won't be before the 18th many head teachers want more time to prepare things have just come through to schools very late and i think it's it's certainly led to a lot of stress and a lot of panic over the christmas holidays to try to get people recruited our community have been excellent since we've had um press coverage and since we've talked to our community we've had some volunteers but we've still got nowhere near enough schools have stepped up right the way from march delivering online learning turning things at the turn of a coin we're very used to being adaptable we really want this to work but we don't know where we're going to get the volunteers from if there is a delay primary schools and children of key workers may not be affected but in secondaries it might mean online learning or even an extension to the holidays for a week or two than those taking exams back first an announcement could come as soon as tomorrow damien gramaticus bbc news well let's take a look then at the latest government figures and they showed that there were 53 135 new infections recorded in the latest 24 hours but not all of the four nations reported the full set of data over the christmas period the average number of new cases reported per day in the past week is now 38 936 414 deaths were reported that's people who died within 28 days of a positive covet test it means on average in the past week 466 deaths were announced every day and it takes the total number of deaths so far across the uk to 71 567 and with me is our health correspondent catherine burns report we saw a little earlier so we have this record number of infections today uh catherine and tomorrow of course we're looking ahead to the announcement on tears in england and possible changes there so where do we stand do you think well let's start with those numbers those number of people testing positive 53 000.

I mean there was like you said there was a bit of a lag over christmas with some nations not reporting their data as quickly but let's be very clear about this public health england says this is a real increase and it's of extreme concern and there are some things that we just don't actually have an accurate picture of right now for example how many people are being treated in hospital for covid so the latest figures we've got just over 21 000 they're a week old now and at that point we were just a few hundred cases shy of reaching the level we got to at the peak back in april now since then england's had an extra 2 000 cases so it's pretty reasonable to expect that we have now broken that record we've gone past that peak which obviously is another record that nobody wanted to break so where does all this leave as well we know the government has boris johnson he chaired a meeting tonight looking at the tier system in england and we're expecting an update from the health secretary matt hancock tomorrow so right now we've got about 40 of the population in england in tier four the highest level of restrictions and some people are questioning is this going to be high enough another thing i think we should look out for tomorrow is areas where there are really high numbers of people testing positive but are still only in tiers two or three so an example of that is eden in cumbria it's having about 500 cases for every 100 000 people right now and to give you some context the uk average is more like 400 but really for all of us no matter what tier in what level of restrictions we're looking at right now it's time to go back to the basics stick to the rules for the area that we're in and go back to those basics washing hands social distancing wearing masks everything to give us a fighting chance to get these infections down catherine once again many thanks catherine burns the health correspondent

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