‘We are in an incredibly dangerous situation’, warn scientists as five die in a single day at Croydon’s biggest hospital, as the national death toll from coronavirus reaches worst level for eight months
Staff at Croydon’s Mayday Hospital go into festive weekend hoping that the borough’s residents have a very merry Christmas – by staying at home and reducing the chances of spreading or catching coronavirus.
In common with many NHS hospitals around London and the south-east, Mayday finds itself facing a new covid-19 crisis, with infection cases doubling in the space of seven days. On one day this week, five patients died at Mayday with illness related to coronavirus.
Sources at the Croydon hospital report that there are nearly 140 patients in intensive care beds due to covid-19. With the exception of cancer treatments, other scheduled operations have been cancelled.
And the hospital’s efforts to vaccinate residents has also been slowed because of the blockade of the Channel ports has delayed delivery from production labs in Europe. Croydon’s second covid vaccination centre opened earlier this week in Purley. So far, 5,000 vaccinations have been administered in Croydon, with new centres expected to open by January 11 in Crystal Palace and central Croydon.
Such measures cannot be introduced too soon, say medical experts, as yesterday’s official national figures showed the highest covid death toll since April.
The discovery of a second new variant of the virus prompted stark warnings that ministers are acting too slowly by waiting until Boxing Day to put six million more people into the toughest restrictions.
The UK recorded 744 deaths yesterday and 39,237 new cases of the virus.
Croydon has been in Tier 4 since Saturday, as a surge in infections across London, Kent and Essex saw the government reverse its previous position of lesser restrictions for Christmas.
The current restrictions are outlined here.
In Croydon, there were 371 new positive cases reported yesterday. On Sunday a peak figure of 438 cases were reported.
One expert warned the delay of “critical days” will mean “case numbers are going to be much, much higher” and “much more difficult to bring down”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that coronavirus cases had risen 57 per cent across the country in the last week, with nearly 19,000 in hospital with the virus.
“Against this backdrop of rising infections, rising hospitalisations and rising numbers of people dying from coronavirus, it is absolutely vital that we act,” Hancock said.
“We simply cannot have the kind of Christmas that we all yearn for.
“We know that the three-tiered system worked to control the old variant and is working now in large parts of the country, especially in northern England. But we also know that Tier 3 is not enough to control the new variant.
“This is not a hypothesis, it is a fact and we’ve seen it on the ground.”
Dr Andrew Preston, reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said: “The situation is fast-moving and requires decisive decision-making. With cases rising so quickly, the delay of three critical days – with new tiering not taking effect until Boxing Day – will mean that by then case numbers are going to be much, much higher and as a result much, much more difficult to bring down.
“If containment is the focus, then unfortunately the restrictions need to be immediate, despite the fallout this will cause.”
And Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said, “We are in an incredibly dangerous situation.
“If we just wait and we let it spread to the north, where things are much more under control, then the whole country is on fire and I just feel like we have to stop it now and protect the north from the south, effectively.”
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