Great Britain

Hospitals could be overwhelmed without new Covid tier system, Gove warns Tory rebels

Every hospital in England could be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases if new tier restrictions are not introduced, Michael Gove has warned, as he seeks to quell a Tory backbench rebellion over the measures.

The Cabinet Office minister, writing in The Times, urged MPs to "take responsibility for difficult decisions" to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid anger from some Conservatives that much of England will face stringent restrictions.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly will be under the lightest tier 1 controls, while large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive tier 3.

In total, 99 per cent of England will enter tier 2 or 3, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors when the four-week national lockdown lifts on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson faces a Commons showdown with his own MPs when they vote on the measures next week, which could leave him dependent on Labour support to get them approved.

The prime minister acknowledged on Friday that people felt "frustrated", particularly in areas with low infection rates which now face tighter restrictions than before the lockdown.

It comes as the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in four NHS regions of England reached higher totals this month than during the first peak, with figures in both the South West and North East and Yorkshire still above those seen in the spring.

Latest data from the government's coronavirus dashboard show there were 938 Covid-19 patients in hospital in the South West as of Thursday, down slightly from a high of 968 on Tuesday but higher than the spring peak of 840 on 14 April.

Hospitals in the North East and Yorkshire saw a high of 3,400 Covid-19 patients on 16 November, which had fallen to 2,925 as of Thursday but is still higher than the peak in spring of 2,567 on April 9.

Both the Midlands and North West also saw totals this month surpass the first wave peak, with 3,150 reported on Monday compared with 3,101 on 10 April in the former and 3,059 on 16 November compared with 2,890 on 13 April in the latter. The figures in both regions have since fallen back below spring peak levels.

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