LONDON (Dispatches) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday raised fears that tough Covid restrictions could continue well into the spring and beyond as ministers refused to be drawn on plans for any potential easing of lockdown.
With 1,290 more UK coronavirus deaths recorded on Thursday, fears that infection rates in England might not even be falling, and the continued spread of the new, more infectious variant of Covid-19, Johnson was notably more cautious about lifting lockdown than he previously has been.
"I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions,” he told reporters during a visit to flood-hit Didsbury in Greater Manchester, when asked about the mid-February target.
While previously Johnson has appeared keen to talk up early exits from restrictions, No 10 officials have become much more cautious in recent days because of continued high levels of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
There is also pressure from scientists to maintain robust restrictions because research suggests vaccination alone may not be enough to shrink the coronavirus epidemic.
England’s third national lockdown has seen bars, restaurants and schools mostly closed, with Johnson attributing a steep rise in cases at the end of last year to a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first detected in England.
Medics said they are "throwing everything” at patients to help them recover from the horrific virus, but said "it just doesn’t seem to be working”.
Staff at Milton Keynes University
Hospital warned more people are dying from coronavirus as fewer of the sickest patients are responding to treatment. One in 10 major hospital trusts had no spare adult critical care beds last week, according to NHS England data.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has warned hospitals are like "war zones” amid rising numbers of virus patients.
Some 15 out of 140 acute trusts reported 100 percent occupancy of all "open” beds each day from January 11 to 17.
Wassim Shamsuddin, clinical director for anaesthesia and intensive care at Milton Keynes, said: "This time around, what we’re finding is that patients aren’t faring as well if they need to be invasively ventilated.”
"Our mortality probably in the first wave for patients coming to intensive care was around 40 percent. This time around we find that the mortality is about 80 percent.”
Shamsuddin said, "The difficulty here is that even though we try our best and we throw everything at the patients, it just doesn’t seem to be working.”
The doctors and nurses at Milton Keynes University Hospital said they are now battling with the strain of exhaustion and loss.
Pictures taken inside the hospital show staff hard at work, as they face the pressure of the mortality rate doubling, the Daily Express reported.
Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had seen more than twice the number of patients in the second wave than the first, and currently had 186 patients with Covid.
He said: "We believe that over the next week or so, we’re going to continue to see real pressures in our critical care unit.”