WHOLE families are being hospitalised as the new strain of coronavirus affects young and old Brits, it was warned today.
More than 21,000 people are currently in hospital with the deadly bug with fears the new variant is more likely to affect young people.
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Martin Llewelyn, professor of Infectious Diseases and NHS Consultant, revealed there was a "staggering" number of patients with coronavirus in the wards just days after Christmas.
The President of British Infection Association tweeted: "Back on the wards today. Staggering amount of Covid.
"Striking difference from last time – large family outbreaks with teenagers/young adults the focus. Multiple family members being admitted.
"Not looking forward to next two weeks. Please follow the rules this new years eve."
It comes after experts revealed the new strain of the virus is 56 per cent more infectious – with researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine saying there is "some evidence that the increase may be particularly marked in children.
Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop the virus from spiralling out of control as kids countdown the return to school after Christmas.
The PM is holding meetings throughout today as he scrambles to find a way for pupils to return next week amid spiralling case numbers driven by the new Covid strain – described as a "game changer" by scientists.
So far only primary school kids and Years 11 and 13 will return to class on January 4 – but Union bosses have demanded ALL kids should stay home for two weeks.
Downing Street today said The Government is "still planning for a staggered opening of schools" after Christmas but is keeping the plan under constant review.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "We're still planning for a staggered opening of schools and we are working to ensure testing is in place.
"As we have said throughout the pandemic, we obviously keep all measures under constant review."
The spokesman also confirmed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock would announce any changes to tier areas in a statement to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the latest government statistics, on Sunday, 2,143 people were admitted to hospital with Covid – the total number of patients in hospital now at 21,286.
The figures mean there are now just as many people in hospital with coronavirus as during the April peak.
And now reports have surfaced that coronavirus patients are having to be moved to hospitals 65 miles away as beds and oxygen run out.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of the Doctors' Association UK warned: "Hospitals are running out of oxygen. One trust has no non-invasive machines left.
"ICUs are tweeting for volunteers to prone patients. Transfer teams being requested to move patients 65+ miles to nearest hospital with critical care capacity."
Meanwhile, two NHS trusts have declared a major incident due to the high number of Covid-19 patients attending a hospital.
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust reported the internal incident at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south-east London on Sunday [December 27].
The trust said that the move was a ‘precautionary step’ due to the number of Covid patients it was seeing at the hospital.
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: “We have been following our plan to cope with a second wave of Covid-19 and are working closely with hospital and healthcare partners in south east London.
“All our patients have received the treatment they need, including intensive care treatment for Covid-19 and oxygen therapy as required.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that this remains the case.”
In a statement posted on Twitter on Monday [December 28], Dan Thorpe, leader of Greenwich Council, said that the hospital was ‘extremely busy.’
He said: “The hospital is extremely busy, but all patients continue to receive the care that they need, including oxygen therapy. The situation continues to be monitored.”
On the same day [December 28], it was revealed that cases of coronavirus in the Royal Borough of Greenwich have risen to 761 per 100,000.
Darent Valley Hospital has also issued a statement urging non emergency patients to seek other NHS services due to a 'high numbers' of COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
And speaking this morning, Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, warned Britain is entering a "very dangerous, new phase" of the pandemic due to the new, more infectious strain of coronavirus.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Prof Hayward, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: "We're going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.
"A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won't work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that."
Areas across the UK are starting to report struggles keeping up with the number of Covid patients.
Medway Hospital in Kent has seen more than 20 ambulances outside waiting for up to six hours.
And in Essex, reports have surfaced that hospital staff are having to treat patients in the back of ambulances.
Essex Live reported Queen's Hospital in Romford is struggling with a shortage of beds to treat patients and staff to treat them.
Health staff are even considering the option of setting up tents outside hospitals to triage patients, as they work in "major incident mode" with Covid-19 patients on the rise, a senior doctor said.
Emergency medicine consultant Simon Walsh, who is deputy chair of the British Medical Association's UK consultants committee, said such plans are normally reserved for dealing with major incidents such as terror attacks or big industrial disasters.
He told the PA news agency: "Today, many trusts in London and the South East are effectively operating in a major incident mode.
"They're having crisis meetings, they're calling on staff to come in to work if they're able to on their days off.
"They are dealing with queues of ambulances outside many emergency departments, often with patients sat in the ambulances for many hours until they can be offloaded into the department because there simply isn't any space to put them in.
"Hospitals are even considering setting up tents that you would see outside in an actual major incident. All emergency departments have a plan for dealing with a sudden surge of patients from a major incident.
"That often involves setting up a tent outside in which patients can be triaged and held in an area because the emergency department just doesn't have capacity for that number of patients arriving at one time."
But in a ray of hope, more than 22million Brits are expected to be vaccinated by Spring.
Sir Simon Stevens called it “the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead”.
The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Astra-Zeneca is expected to be approved as early as Wednesday.
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