Pressure is mounting on the NHS and the government after a Christmas surge of Covid cases.
England had over 10,000 Covid patients in hospital beds yesterday – up more than 3,000 since Christmas Day.
And 183,037 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in 24 hours – the highest UK daily total ever.
While this total included a five-day backlog from Northern Ireland, the 138,287 figure for England was still the highest on record.
The NHS is now setting up Nightingale “surge hubs” at hospitals across England as it goes on a “war footing” to prepare for a potential wave of Omicron hospital admissions.
Work on a total of eight hubs, each with a capacity of around 100 patients, is set to begin as early as this week.
NHS bosses are also under pressure to find sites for 4,000 further ’super surge’ beds at other locations.
Yet Boris Johnson yesterday insisted he was right not to impose new restrictions in England, saying: “What is making a huge difference is the level of booster resistance.”
He added 90% of Covid patients in some ICUs had not had their booster.
So what exactly has been happening with Covid data since Christmas Day? And how does being vaccinated, or not, make a difference?
We take a look in detail.
Hospital beds are filling up with Covid patients fast
Hospital beds have been filling up with Covid patients at a rapid rate in recent days.
At 8am on Wednesday 29 December, there were 10,462 confirmed Covid-19 patients in English hospital beds – the highest since March 1.
That is up from 7,166 on Christmas Day, 7,536 on Boxing Day, 8,474 on December 27 and 9,546 on December 28.
At the beginning of December the total was under 6,000.
While some of those patients will be in hospital for non-Covid reasons, such as a broken leg or car accident, these cases still have a big impact on the NHS.
This is because hospitals have to put Covid patients on Covid wards to isolate the virus, disrupting staffing and affecting the care those patients can get at their bed.
In Scotland, 679 Covid-19 patients were in hospital at 8am on December 29 – up from 526 on Christmas Day.
Northern Ireland’s data is less dramatic, with the number of hospital patients lower than a month ago.
Data for Wales since Christmas has not been published on the government dashboard.
AFP via Getty Images)
So far, patients on ventilators haven’t soared
The glimmer of hope is that, so far, there hasn’t been a surge of the most seriously ill Covid patients being put on ventilators.
England had 771 ventilated Covid patients at 8am on December 29 – up from 745 on Christmas Day, but lower than the same day last month.
Likewise Scotland’s ventilator numbers rose from 33 on Christmas Day to 36 on December 29 – but have fallen since this time last month.
Reports of deaths were interrupted by Christmas, but the 143 reported on December 27 were broadly in line with the few days before the festive season.
Of course, the big catch is that there is a time lag between catching Covid and entering hospital, and then another time lag between being hospitalised and moved to ICU, and another time lag before death.
So while this is encouraging, we can’t guarantee the numbers won’t rise in the coming weeks.
London is surging fast – but so are all regions
Omicron spread in London ahead of other regions – and the capital is now seeing a big rise in hospital cases.
3,310 Covid patients were in London hospital beds at 8am on December 29, a rise of more than 1,000 since Christmas Day.
London’s total was just over 1,000 at the start of the month.
All regions of England are seeing rises however.
The East of England has risen from 645 to 925 since Christmas Day. In the same time period, the Midlands are up from 1,271 to 1,687; the North East and Yorkshire are up from 796 to 1,226; the North West is up from 901 to 1,530; South East is up from 794 to 1,176; and South West is up from 464 to 608.
The unvaccinated – or unboosted – are worst-hit
Boris Johnson warned yesterday: “According to some of the surveys I’ve seen, 90% of the patients in ICU are people who are not boosted.”
So what is the data behind that? No10 later said the 90% figure was anecdotal from “some NHS Trusts” but did not give more details.
UK Health Security Agency data – last published just before Christmas – does give us some more detail.
It shows unvaccinated people are far more likely to spend a night in hospital with Covid, and die after contracting the virus, than vaccinated people.
Of people in their 40s over a four-week period before Christmas, 34.4 per 100,000 unvaccinated people spent a night in hospital with Covid – compared to 7.9 per 100,000 double-jabbed people.
Death rates within 60 days of a positive test for that same group were 4.6 per 100,000 unjabbed, compared to 1 per 100,000 jabbed.
Of 8,190 people who spent at least one night in hospital with coronavirus between November 22 and December 19, 3,693 – just over 45% – were unvaccinated, according to figures from the UK Health Security Data.
A slightly higher number, 4,027, had received at least two doses – although this group accounts for 82 per cent of the population above the age of 12.
People of all ages are being admitted
The latest available data from the UK Health Security Agency reveals that people of all ages were being hospitalised in the weeks before Christmas, as Omicron ripped through the country.
There were 648 under-18s presenting for emergency care who spent at least one night in hospital between November 22 and December 19, of who 578 were unvaccinated.
The figures show 492 admissions of those between 18 and 29, 915 aged from 30 to 39, 1,128 between 40 and 49 and 1,378 aged 50 to 59.
Those aged 60 to 69 accounted for 1,284 admissions, while 1,123 people aged between 70 and 79 were admitted in these weeks.
An additional 1,222 spent at least one night in hospital, of which 261 were unjabbed.