NHS timebomb: Britons could be forced to shelter inside for MONTHS to save health service

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The Prime Minister will this week announce his master plan to curb the spread of coronavirus as infections in England continue to rise rapidly. His vision could see measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in place throughout the winter months and into spring.

People in high-risk groups such as the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions who are living in areas put into the top tier could find themselves isolating at home for months.

A decision on shielding has yet to be finalised by the Government, The Times reports.

Ministers are said to be concerned over how such a policy would affect the mental health of vulnerable people.

Reports suggest England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, is spearheading work on a “tailored shielding” scheme.

This would replace blanket advice to high-risk groups and would include personalised advice tailored to how vulnerable an individual is.

Around 2.2 million people in England deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” were asked to shield at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, before the scheme was “paused” in July.

On Thursday the UK recorded 609 new coronavirus hospital admissions.

This marked an increase of a fifth from the previous day.

Seventy-seven deaths were reported, bringing the total to 42,592.

And 17,540 fresh infections were declared which brought the overall total to 561,815.

The rise came as a minister acknowledged the situation was “getting out of control” and said action from Whitehall was required.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan said on BBC Question Time: “This is serious – it is getting out of control, and we have to do something to bring it back under control.”

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Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said coronavirus was “holding a gun” to Mr Johnson’s head over the restrictions being introduced.

Prof Edmunds said the nation faces an anxious wait to see the full impact on the NHS.

He warned: “In the north of England now, we are not that far away from the health service being stretched.

“Because even if we turn the epidemic around now, infections that occur today won’t go to hospital for another week or two.”

The Government is reportedly planning to order the temporary closure of pubs, bars and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots – mostly in the North – with ministers considering fresh financial packages to help the hardest hit areas and industries.

Regional leaders have criticised the Government for not consulting them ahead of changes.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham vowed to rigorously challenge the shutdown.

Mr Burnham told Question Time: “I will use whatever means I can to challenge it to get support for people because otherwise they are going to suffer real hardship this winter – we are going to see businesses failing.”

In response, Ms Keegan admitted on the programme that the Government’s communication needed to be “much clearer”.

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