Calls are growing for tighter restrictions to be implemented in the UK after it reported its highest-ever daily total of Coronavirus cases.
Another 53,135 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the UK on Tuesday, breaking the previous record-high number of cases reported in a day of 41,385, which was reported on Monday. According to official data, 272,551 people were reported to have tested positive for the virus in the last 7 days, an increase of 22% compared to the previous 7 day period.
A further 414 deaths were reported within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday, taking the reported UK death toll to 71,567.
The effects of the Christmas period on the reporting of data may mean that some figures appear slightly inflated, however, there are real concerns about the spread of the virus, with nearly all parts of England experiencing rises in cases in the week leading up to Christmas.
On Tuesday afternoon, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted ‘Our NHS is facing unprecedented pressures due to #coronavirus. We must suppress this virus to protect our NHS & save lives until the vaccine can keep us safe.’
The tweet came after news that hospitals in England are currently treating more Coronavirus patients than at the peak of the first wave of infections in April. On Tuesday morning, NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens said NHS workers are ‘back in the eye of the storm’. On Tuesday afternoon, Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical advisor for Public Health England described the ‘unprecedented levels’ of COVID-19 infections as being of ‘extreme concern’.
In the South of England, there have been reports of patients being treated ‘in ambulances’ and others facing waits as long as six hours in order to be treated.
There are now growing calls for tighter restrictions to be implemented, with concerns that the new strain of COVID-19 present in the UK may not be being effectively tackled by current Tier 4 measures.
On Monday, the National Education Union called on the Government to delay the reopening of schools and colleges in January and on Tuesday, #CloseSchoolsNOW was trending highly on Twitter as members of the public expressed their concern about the current situation.
School pupils are currently set to return through a staggered approach with a testing programme planned, however, there are concerns that the return of pupils to classrooms will only worsen the current crisis.
On Wednesday, the Government is set to conduct the latest review of Coronavirus tier allocations in England, and will also likely consider whether further restrictions are needed in the worst affected areas, many of which are already under Tier 4 ‘stay at home’ lockdowns.
Data analysis by The Speaker suggests that many areas currently in Tier 2 and Tier 3 are likely to face tighter restrictions and the possible escalation of their tiers – though a third nationwide lockdown has not been ruled out.
There are hopes that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may be approved for use imminently and allow an expansion of the UK’s Coronavirus vaccination programme. However, even with the rollout of another new vaccine, which will bring huge logistical challenges, it is thought that there will still likely be a significant period of time, perhaps several months, in which more restrictions will be needed to tackle the virus.