Health chief calls for return to facemasks and social distancing after covid spike

A leading health official has warned that a rise in coronavirus cases has begun to put a strain on the NHS. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, wants ministers to discuss “sensible precautions” Brits can take to help ease pressures and help reduce case numbers.

Mr Hopson has warned that the Government “doesn’t seem to want to talk about coronavirus anymore”. According to The Times, he has said that Britain needs a “proper grown-up national debate about what living with covid actually means.” He has also said that the debate on covid curbs should be supported by Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer , and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of all legal covid restrictions in England, back in February. Since then, free testing has been ended, masks have been made optional in most public spaces, and those with covid are no longer required to isolate.

However, Hopson believes that pretending that covid “doesn’t exist any more and that nobody needs to take any precautions” was one of the reasons for the record number of infections in recent weeks. A total of 27,255 positive cases were recorded in the UK in the latest figures from Thursday April 14, and in the seven days prior 1,984 deaths were recorded within 28-days of a positive test.

The rise in cases has been blamed for an increase in hospitalizations, as well as causing staff sickness, and putting extra strain on the NHS. In fact, nearly 16,000 patients are currently hospitalized with the virus – double what it was a few weeks ago. Also, more than 70,000 health service staff are currently off sick – 40 per cent of them have covid.



Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, has said people should go back to wearing masks

The impact of this has been felt nationwide with reports finding that around one in 10 patients has had to wait more than 12 hours to be seen by a health care professional. This is the highest level since the data was first collected in 2015.

Analysis from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) found that in the last week of March, 44 per cent of patients had to wait more than four hours to be seen, treated and then admitted or discharged – compared with just 19 per cent in the same week in 2019, before the pandemic began.

It’s also not just people looking to be seen by a doctor that have had to wait, either. In fact, reports have emerged that people have spent hours waiting on trolleys and in cubicles because there is no room to be admitted in to the hospital itself. There has also been delays in ambulance response times, in cancer care, and for planned surgeries.

“Nobody in the NHS either expected or predicted this level of covid at this point,” he said. “It’s creating a real, real pressure.”

Hopson stressed: “Nobody is arguing we should go back to draconian lockdown restrictions, but this is not all or nothing.”

Instead, he has argued how other European nations have reached an “intermediary point” where the level of risk is outlined to the public. This would help alleviate the strain felt by the NHS, who are running “higher levels of risk than ever seen before” and swamped by pressure normally experienced in the “very depths of winter”.

The NHS providers chief referenced a recent board meeting highlighted how the NHS is experiencing the “most difficult period over a sustained period of time”.

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