Matt Hancock today warned the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospital is doubling every eight days as he revealed ministers need to 'take action' because the outbreak is accelerating.
The Health Secretary pleaded with the public to 'come together to tackle this virus' and admitted that a new national crackdown could be on the cards because it 'isn't just cases' that are increasing.
Government statistics show 194 newly-infected Covid-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in England on Tuesday, compared to just 84 eight days ago and just 38 on August 30. It means 154 patients are needing NHS care each day, on average — triple the figure of 52 on September 1.
More than 3,000 people each day were being admitted to NHS hospitals during the peak of the first wave in April. Analysis suggests, at the current trend, it would take little more than three weeks for daily admissions to top 2,000.
And a top infectious disease expert today warned that it is 'plausible' the doubling rate of every eight days could continue. Professor Paul Hunter, of University of East Anglia, told MailOnline the number of admissions could surpass the daily rate seen in March and April in just a month's time.
Cases have spiked over the same time frame, with another 3,395 infections recorded yesterday — a 33 per cent rise in a week. Deaths are also starting to creep up, with the average number of patients dying each day now standing at 14 — up from seven a fortnight ago.
More aggressive measures, including a national 'circuit breaker', are on the cards to stop the growth of the outbreak. The move could come as soon as next week, with pubs, restaurants and hotels facing being shut to prevent 'significant' casualties.
It comes as hospitals have been warned they must clear beds and brace themselves for a rise in coronavirus patients in the next few weeks.
MPs in London have been informed of plans to increase 'step down' beds in the capital, it was reported today. The beds will be made available to coronavirus patients who no longer need any hospital treatment, but can recover from the disease while isolating.
Hospitals cancelled thousands of surgeries like hip operations and cancer treatment to free up space for infected patients at the peak of the crisis, causing the NHS to have a record-high waiting list for routine treatment. The drive to free up beds in the first wave also saw coronavirus-infected patients discharged into care homes, where the virus was allowed to spread.
Analysis suggests, at the current trend, it would take little more than three weeks for daily admissions to top 2,000
The Health Secretary pleaded with the public to 'come together to tackle this virus' and admitted that a new national crackdown could be on the cards because it 'isn't just cases' that are increasing
MATT HANCOCK ADMITS A NATIONAL CRACKDOWN IS ON THE CARDS
Matt Hancock today admitted that a new national crackdown is on the cards as he warned infections are 'accelerating across the country' and more people will die.
The Health Secretary pleaded with the public to 'come together to tackle this virus' as ministers consider imposing draconian restrictions for a fortnight in a 'circuit break' to stop the spread.
The move could come as soon as next week, with pubs, restaurants and hotels facing being shut to prevent 'significant' casualties.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock said a national lockdown was the 'last line of defence'. But he warned that it was a 'big moment for the country' and the situation was 'deadly serious', with cases now doubling every eight days. Unless the 'Rule of Six' restrictions worked more would have to be done, he warned.
'The virus is clearly accelerating across the country,' Mr Hancock told Sky News. 'We have got to take the necessary action to keep people safe. We will do what it takes to keep people safe.'
It comes as 10million people are told to follow new lockdown rules as Lancashire is placed under curfew alongside the North East.
The Government's chief science and medical officers have warned that another serious outbreak of coronavirus could lead to a significant number of deaths by the end of next month.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Hancock warned that it was 'absolutely critical' that people continued to follow the basic rules with regard to coronavirus.
He said: 'We have seen an acceleration in the number of cases over the last couple of weeks and we’ve also sadly seen that the number of people hospitalised with coronavirus is doubling about every eight days, so we do need to take action.'
The government's most-up-to-date data shows 194 Covid-19 patients in England were admitted to hospital on September 15 — at an average of 154 a day over the past week.
For comparison, the rolling seven-day average had dipped to as low as 45 on August 22, when just 25 hospital admissions were recorded across the country.
At the height of the pandemic at the start of April, the average number of daily admissions was 2,700. Britain's lockdown and tough social distancing measures allowed the rate to plummet to below 1,000 by the start of May.
Department of Health chiefs say data is not updated every day by all four nations and the figures are not comparable. For instance, Wales include suspected Covid-19 patients while all the other nations include only confirmed cases.
Professor Hunter told MailOnline that the spike in admissions is 'predictable' and 'expected', given the spike in cases over the past few weeks.
He added: 'It's worrying that it's going up but the big concern is how many hospital admissions we will end up seeing.
'I suspect it will carry on... but I suspect we won't see it doubling quite as rapidly because, often, these things start off quite fast and then they tail off after a little while.
'It doesn't always tail off, but ultimately it does because if it carries on doubling [at that speed], then soon every single person on the planet will be on hospital. So it has to tail off eventually.
'The issue is when does it start tailing off? I have no way of knowing.'
Professor Hunter added that it was 'plausible' England's hospital admissions could get up the levels seen in April but admitted he think it's probably won't happen.
He said: 'The evidence is older people are still, sort of, social distancing themselves more than other groups, and they're the group most likely to get hospitalised. There's also a smaller pool to get infected and be hospitalised than we saw back in March and April.
'But it may well continue, and it's plausible that England could well in a month's time be surpassing that figure. But I hope not.'
It comes as hospitals have been warned they must clear beds and brace themselves for a rise in coronavirus patients in the next few weeks. One MP who has seen the plans told the Telegraph: 'I was told hospitals have reserved beds for people coming out of hospital who need somewhere to re-cover.
'At the start of lockdown they were having to send people back to care homes or back to other facilities, with dire consequences, so they've booked places in respite care or empty care homes, so people will go out of hospital, but won't return to their normal place of living.'
Another source said that councils have also been asked to find extra beds
It comes amid more testing chaos yesterday as Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, revealed that demand for coronavirus tests is currently up to four times greater than the system's capacity.
The government's testing tzar also blamed the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) for seemingly getting its predictions wrong as she said testing capacity had been built based on the panel's recommendations.
TEST & TRACE 'COULD BE OUTSOURCED TO AMAZON'
By Lizzie Deane for the Daily Mail
THE UK'S test and trace system could be outsourced to a delivery giant such as Amazon, it was reported last night.
Ministers are said to be planning to hand over the running of the testing service to a logistics firm as the system struggles to cope with increased demand for tests.
A invitation to bid for a contract covering the management of the entire 'end-to-end' supply chain will be issued next month, The Daily Telegraph reported.
A Government source said 'experts in delivery services' were needed. 'At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house but, as we go into winter, we need experts in this area to take it forward,' they said.
Amazon, DHL and other major logistics firms are all reportedly likely to be competing for the huge contract which will be the linchpin of the Health Secretary's promise to deliver 500,000 tests a day by the end of next month.
An information notice issued by the Department of Health calls for potential bidders to register their interest in the contract to co-ordinate the testing service's supply change.
It says: 'In order to significantly scale up the number of daily tests as well as making the operations more efficient, we are looking for an end-to-end management of all associated supply chain and logistics processes along the chain.'
Last night it emerged the country's faltering testing system could be outsourced to Amazon, as reported by The Telegraph.
A source said: 'At the moment the man- agement of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house but as we go into winter we need experts in this area to take it forward.'
The government is also expected to announce tighter restrictions on care home visits in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases are expected to be announced by the Government in its winter action plan.
Care homes in areas subject to local lockdowns may be advised to temporarily restrict visits in all but end-of-life situations, it is understood.
For parts of the country where there is no local lockdown, but where community transmission is a cause for concern, an option officials are considering is advising that visits are restricted to one designated visitor per resident.
The Government will set out further details on Friday in its social care action plan to help fight the spread of coronavirus over winter.
As part of the plan, care homes will receive free protective equipment and providers must stop 'all but essential' movement of staff between homes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
This will be supported by an additional £546 million announced on Thursday as part of the extended infection control fund.
A new dashboard will monitor care home infections and help local government and providers respond quickly.
And a chief nurse for adult social care will be appointed to represent social care nurses and provide 'clinical leadership'.
Local authorities and the Care Quality Commission will be asked to take 'strong action' in instances where providers are not restricting staff movement adequately.
The DHSC said this could include restricting a service's operation and issuing warning notices.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: 'We are entering a critical phase in our fight against coronavirus with winter on the horizon.
'Our priority over the next six months is to make sure we protect those most vulnerable receiving care and our incredibly hard-working workforce by limiting the spread of the virus and preventing a second spike.
'This winter plan gives providers the certainty they need when it comes to PPE and provides additional support to help care homes to limit the movement of staff, stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
'We will be monitoring the implementation of this carefully and will be swift in our actions to protect residents and colleagues across the country.'
It comes as Age UK said some older people are 'dying of sadness' because they have been cut off from loved ones over a long period of time.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said it is important the plan achieves an 'appropriate balance' between ensuring infection control and allowing residents to keep in contact with loved ones.
She said: 'All in all what we have seen so far is promising, but we will await with interest to read what the plan says about visiting in care homes.
'With Covid-19 cases on the rise and winter on the way it's right that every activity that could potentially place residents at risk is considered very carefully, including visiting, but any sense of a 'blanket ban' would be highly inappropriate, however anxious we may all feel.
'Risks, capabilities and opportunities of all kinds differ hugely across care homes and for the sake of older people this enormous variation must be taken fully into account.'
Liz Kendall, Labour's shadow social care minister, welcomed the appointment of a chief nurse and increased funding.
She continued: 'But the real test of this plan is whether the Government delivers on weekly testing of all care staff - first promised in July but still not delivered, with serious concerns about delays in getting results back.
'Ensuring families can visit their loved ones is also critical, as without this care home residents can end up fading fast.'