Tougher measures imminent as Hunt warns COVID-19 crisis 'off the scale'

Prime minister Boris Johnson has admitted there is 'no question' tougher restrictions are needed to control COVID-19 as a former health secretary warned the pandemic's impact was now 'off the scale'.

Prime minister Boris Johnson on hospital visit (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
Prime minister Boris Johnson on hospital visit (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Visiting a north London hospital as some of the first patients received doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine, prime minister Boris Johnson said tougher restrictions were inevitable.

'If you look at the numbers there is no question that we are going to have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course,' Mr Johnson said.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, has announced a lockdown from midnight - with schools across Scotland to remain closed until February at the earliest.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday called for a full national lockdown in England within 24 hours, and groups including the Doctors Association UK have joined calls for an emergency national lockdown.

COVID-19 lockdown

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt - now chair of the influential House of Commons health select committee - warned that although during his record tenure in the role the NHS had faced four 'serious winter crises', soaring rates of COVID-19 infection in the second wave of the pandemic meant pressure on the health service was now 'off-the-scale worse than any of those'.

Mr Hunt called for immediate closure of schools, borders and a ban on all household mixing.

Calls for rapid action to contain the COVID-19 pandemic came after the UK recorded more than 50,000 new infections per day for six days in a row.

COVID-19 cases rising

More than 75,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, and on 28 December 23,823 were in hospital with the virus - more than the number at the peak of the first wave.

DAUK vice chair Dr Natalie Ashburner said: 'We acknowledge that these decisions are far from easy to make but the rapid of acceleration of the virus is deeply concerning and the current measures don’t appear to be containing transmission of the virus.

'For the sixth day in a row over 50,000 transmissions have been recorded and the death toll is climbing inexorably. DAUK is particularly worried that things will get even worse as the effects of Christmas and New Year are fully realised.'

Dr Zainab Najim of the DAUK GP committee said: 'We are in the midst of the toughest winter the NHS has ever seen, exacerbated by the new highly transmissible strain of COVID-19.

'Sickness rates among NHS staff have doubled to trebled compared to last winter and there are real worries that safe patient care could be compromised by the sheer number of patients needing care and staffing ratios not seen in peacetime.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Former Brexit secretary backs vitamin D supplements to beat COVID-19

Former Brexit secretary backs vitamin D supplements to beat COVID-19

The NHS should provide 10 times the current daily recommended amount of vitamin D...

Identifying patients experiencing domestic violence and abuse in general practice

Identifying patients experiencing domestic violence and abuse in general practice

Dr Vasumathy Sivarajasingam describes a pilot project in her practice that used a...

Long COVID could ‘wreak havoc’ on NHS workforce and disrupt vaccine rollout

Long COVID could ‘wreak havoc’ on NHS workforce and disrupt vaccine rollout

High rates of COVID-19 infection and the impact of long COVID could 'wreak havoc'...

GPs can give COVID and flu jabs at same time, says NHS England

GPs can give COVID and flu jabs at same time, says NHS England

GPs can now administer COVID-19 and flu jabs at the same time, according to updated...

Areas hit hardest by COVID-19 fall behind on vaccine campaign

Areas hit hardest by COVID-19 fall behind on vaccine campaign

Regions of England hit hardest by COVID-19 cases have fallen behind the rest of the...

COVID-19 pandemic drives first recorded dip in patients registered with GPs

COVID-19 pandemic drives first recorded dip in patients registered with GPs

A rise in deaths and reduced immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic saw the first-ever...