The UK reported a daily record of 1,564 deaths within 28 days of positive coronavirus testing on Wednesday, after Boris Johnson warned that intensive care units at some hospitals could quickly overload.
Mr Johnson told the House Liaison Committee that there was a “very significant” risk of the NHS running out of ICU beds and there was no guarantee that schools would be allowed to reopen after the mid-term break in mid-term. February.
But the prime minister said the number of people testing positive for the virus is falling, indicating that existing restrictions should be given a chance to work before stronger curbs are introduced.
Hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients in England fell slightly from 3,967 on 6 January to 3,894 on 11 January – driven by a pronounced dropout rate in London and the South East, though not elsewhere.
“The blocking measures we have put in place combined with the Tier 4 measures we were using have started to show signs of an effect and we need to consider that as well,” Mr Johnson said.
“What we are seeing today are some early signs of progress in curbing the growth of the virus and some signs of possibly level in some parts of the country.”
But he told lawmakers it was too early to signal “any kind of relaxation in mid-February”.
The death toll reported Wednesday is the highest recorded by the government since the pandemic began, although limited coronavirus testing during the first wave last year means the daily total may have underestimated the true number.
Meanwhile in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced new restrictions on “click and collect” retail services and businesses offering ready-to-eat foods and beverages in an effort to tackle new strains of coronavirus.
The new variant first discovered in England at the end of last year now accounts for 60 per cent of new cases in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament.
She said under the legal guidelines that will take effect from Saturday, only retailers offering essential items such as food, clothing and books will be allowed to operate “click and collect services”. She added that such vendors will have to offer services outside and with scalable appointments.
Ms Sturgeon said ready-made food would now have to be provided by a “key or door” serving rather than inside, as is currently permitted, and a legal ban would be imposed on drinking alcohol in public in much of Scotland.
Downing Street has discussed a similar tightening of restrictions, including measures such as closing nurseries and banning click-through and collection of services at retailers.
Mr Johnson said the pandemic trajectory in the coming weeks would depend on the success of the government vaccination campaign. But he urged people to “maintain their discipline” and said further restrictions could not be ruled out.
Mr Johnson told lawmakers he was concerned about a new type of coronavirus identified in Brazil. He said it was not clear whether the new variant was resistant to vaccines.
He also defended the NHS Test & Trace program, saying he had completed 56 million tests – the highest number in any European country.
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