Second Covid wave on course to be double size of first

The second wave of the pandemic in the UK is set to be double the size of the first, Government scientists have predicted.

Shocking graphs shown at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon revealed how the number of people currently in hospital with coronavirus in the UK is higher than it ever has been before in the pandemic.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said: ‘Unfortunately the number of people going into hospital lags behind the number of people who actually catch the disease, because there’s a delay before hospitalisation.

‘So the number of people entering hospital is still rising in most parts of the country, and the number of people in hospital is still rising in most parts or all parts of the country, because it takes a while for people to be discharged.’

He added the UK has now ‘well exceeded’ the number of hospitalisations during the first peak back in April last year.

It comes as Boris Johnson warned the public to stay at home over the weekend and stick to the tough national lockdown rules.

‘But it will be fatal if this sense of progress were now to breed any kind of complacency because the pressures on the NHS are extraordinary,’ the prime minister said.

The UK recorded another 1,280 deaths from Covid-19 yesterday amid fears the number of deaths will peak in the next week to 10 days.

And according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, one in 50 people in the UK has coronavirus.

‘In spite of all the efforts of our doctors and nurses and our medical staff we’re now seeing cancer treatments sadly postponed, ambulances queuing and intensive care units spilling over into adjacent wards,’ the PM added.

‘This is not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve and our individual efforts. Please stay at home, please protect the NHS and save lives.’

Professor Whitty offered a chink of hope, saying there has been ‘some levelling off from the cases’ – particularly in the areas previously placed under tier four restrictions – and he expects this to drop further as strict lockdown measures start to take effect.

He said this is positive because Government scientists ‘were not sure this was going to be possible with this new variant’.

And Mr Johnson said 3.2 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK.

‘We’re steadily building up that immunity, that protection for the vulnerable, for the NHS and for us all. So when the call comes please do get a jab,’ he said.

The PM also announced every single UK travel corridor will be closed from 4am on Monday.

Travellers from all countries must offer proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the previous 72 hours before leaving for the UK and arrivals must then quarantine for 10 days (or take an extra test on day five to shorten the isolation period).

He warned enforcement of the rules will be ‘stepped up’ after a number of new strains were detected in the UK, including South Africa and Brazil.

‘It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country,’ Mr Johnson explained.

‘Yesterday we announced that we’re banning flights from South America and Portugal and to protect us against the risk from as-yet-unidentified strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 4am on Monday.’

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