More people are hospitalised with Covid in England than ever before

There are now more people in hospital with Covid in England than at any point previously during the pandemic, including the peak of the first wave.

New figures from NHS England show that there were 20,426 patients in English hospitals at 8am on Monday morning (28 Dec). The peak during spring only saw 18,974 people in hospital with the virus, on 12 April.

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The busiest hospitals are in South East and London, with Queen Elizabeth Hospital declaring an internal incident on Sunday due to a worryingly high number of Covid patients.

The London Ambulance Service said Boxing Day was one of its “busiest ever days” with calls up more than 2,500 on the same day last year, to 7,918, as it had to call in support from other services nearby.

A spokesperson for 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 southeast 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."

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What about the rest of the UK?

While the latest figures for hospitalisations in the rest of the UK are yet to be released, the figures up to 22 December paint an increasingly concerning picture, with 21,286 people in hospital - only slightly fewer than the April peak of 21,683.

The UK registered its highest daily increase in Covid cases on Monday, at 41,385.

The total number of deaths across the UK now stands at 71,109, after a further 357 people within 28 days of a positive test on Monday.

What does this mean for hospitals?

While the winter period generally puts a particular strain on the NHS, January and February are typically the busiest months, so health bosses are concerned about the impact of so many Covid patients on overall capacity.

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There are reports that some hospitals have been so busy that patients have had to receive treatment in ambulances.

Speaking to Politico’s Playbook, a Whitehall source reportedly said, “January and February are always the hardest months for the NHS. This year it has Covid to deal with and is coming under a lot of strain.

“The more capacity taken up by Covid the less capacity there is for our NHS to deal with other patient needs. The latest figures are a sad reminder of why we all need to do what we can to drive down infection rates.”