British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday he is hoping the nation’s current situation is the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as infection rates and hospitalizations are at or near record levels.
In televised interviews. Hancock said Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is facing intense pressure due to the high number of COVID-19 cases, treating 55 percent more people than during the first pandemic peak in April, with more than 30,000 patients across the country.
He said the government is considering many options to ease the strain on the NHS. Authorities have reopened temporary field facilities – known as “Nightingale Hospitals” in London and elsewhere and are even considering using hotels for patient overflow.
The health secretary said if hotels were used it would only be “for step-down patients... who no longer need full hospital care.”
Britain on Monday launched an ambitious program to vaccinate 14 million people by the middle of next month. Hancock said that program is still on track to meet that goal, but as of now, it difficult to determine when enough people will be vaccinated to lift some of the COVID lockdown restrictions that are in place. He said they would remain "long as they are necessary.”
The government opened seven mass vaccination centers Monday as it moved into the most perilous moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, with exhausted medical staff reeling under the pressure of packed hospitals and increasing admissions.
Hancock said the single most important thing people can do to ensure the situation does not get worse is to stay home.
Britain has so far had at least 3,180,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 83,000 deaths the world's fifth-highest official toll.