Scale of UK's coronavirus crisis revealed as wave of hospital admissions hits

Eight charts set out how badly country has been hit by second wave

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The UK will get a three-tier lockdown alert today to deal with spiralling coronavirus cases.

Boris Johnson said the UK would suffer an “intolerable death toll” and the NHS would “fall over” if he simply let the virus “rip”.

As a measure of the seriousness of the situation, authorities will reopen the fast-build temporary NHS Nightingale hospitals to treat overflow patients.

More people are now in hospital with coronavirus than at the start of the UK lockdown in March.

These graphs released by the government set out the scale of the situation:

New Covid deaths 'baked in'

Number of cases by specimen date in the UK

This chart shows the total number of cases in the UK.

The first spike occurred in the spring with the second wave coming in September after a flat summer.

Accounting for a three-week lag between a positive test and admission to hospital, England's deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said deaths would undoubtedly surge in the near future.

He said: “We have baked in additional hospital admissions and sadly we have also baked in additional deaths.”

Geographical spread of Covid-19 in England
Geographical spread of Covid-19 in England (Ages 60 plus)

Rates of coronavirus and the pace of change in positive tests is demonstrated in this chart (above).

Scientists said the north of England is experiencing the worst of the second wave but warned that the dark brown colour showed “things are heating up” in the south.

“It has changed in a matter of just a few days,” Prof Van-Tam said.

Prof Van-Tam said the 60-plus age group was experiencing increasing rates of coronavirus because it was spreading from younger people.

He said under-30s had been accounting for the bulk of new cases at the start of the second wave but there was now a surge in older citizens becoming infected.

This is a concern because “the elderly suffer much worse, they are admitted to hospitals for longer periods and they are difficult to save”, he said.

Mr Johnson said it would be wrong to “let the virus rip” and put the NHS under “unbearable pressure”.

He told MPs: “If we let the virus rip the bleak mathematics say we would suffer an intolerable death toll.

“The virus would spread with such velocity there would be no way to stop it.”

Virus 'crept' from young to old

Age-specific confirmed case rate in England regions.
Long term trend in newly reported hospital cases
Trend in newly reported hospital cases

Focusing on north-west England, Prof Van-Tam said the data showed the virus clearly crept from younger people to older people.

He said the pattern was likely to be followed across the country.

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said there were now more people in hospital with Covid-19 than before lockdown in March.

He said authorities have told three Nightingale hospitals in the Covid-hit north to get ready to receive patients.

The hospitals were built across the UK in conference centres and stadia earlier this year as the pandemic swept across the country.

Named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and constructed by the military, many were not needed at the time.

However, Prof Powis said they could be used soon as hospital admissions spiral.

“It is clear hospital admissions are rising fastest in those parts of the country where infection rates are highest,” he said.

He added that Paris and Madrid now had 40 per cent of ICU beds taken up by Covid-19 patients.

Newly reported hospital cases by age
Local position in the North West and North East

Prof Powis said there were steep rises in the number of older people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

He said: “The claim the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is, I’m afraid, proving to be wishful thinking.”

Some hospitals recorded a sevenfold increase in Covid patients in one month.

In another four weeks, Prof Powis said, hospitals could be treating more coronavirus patients than they did during the first wave.

He said that cases of long-Covid – where people experience the disease’s symptoms for prolonged periods – were becoming more apparent in all age groups.