The UK health department on Tuesday registered a new daily high of more than 53,000 Covid-19 cases, as concern mounted about spiralling numbers of positive tests and pressure on health services.
The latest figures — 53,135 new cases in the last 24 hours — come as the UK government is under pressure to introduce tighter restrictions, including delaying the return to school.
More than 24 million people, or 43 percent of England alone, are already living under strict stay-at-home measures, with bars, restaurants, pubs and other entertainment closed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to update parliament on Wednesday about whether to tighten the screw further, as hospitals enter their busiest period during the winter months.
Samantha Batt-Rawden, a critical care doctor who is also president of the Doctors Association UK, said medical staff were at “breaking point”, with oxygen and equipment shortages.
“We are incredibly thin on the ground. NHS (National Health Service) staff have not been prioritised for the vaccine and are going off sick in droves with the new strain,” she said.
“(Hospital) trusts are so desperate they are tweeting out for medical students to help in ICU,” she tweeted, urging the public to follow guidance to stop the close-contact spread.
The latest statistics painted a grim picture of the upsurge in cases, which comes despite stringent measures in place since earlier this month.
UK records highest number of cases in a day
A total of 2,382,865 people have now tested positive, and a further 414 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive test, taking the country’s toll to 71,567.
Health chiefs said there were now more patients in hospital in England than during the initial peak of the outbreak in April, with a new strain blamed for the rise.
NHS England figures showed there were 20,426 Covid patients in the country’s hospitals on Monday, more than the previous high of 18,974 peak on April 12 during the first wave.
Testing is now much more extensive, which could account for the high numbers. But the true picture is likely to be worse, as not all four countries of the UK reported over Christmas.