Medical staff are urging people not to host or attend parties, or mix with other people on New Year’s Eve, as Covid hospitalisations hit a record high.
A&E doctors are particularly concerned about what January and February will hold for hospitals if infections and hospitalisations continue to rise at the rate they are currently, or potentially even more rapidly, driven by more household mixing over the New Year.
Hospitals were “wall to wall” with Covid patients on Christmas Day, with patients in some hospitals having to receive treatment in ambulances outside, and one hospital declaring an internal incident due to high numbers of patients.
‘Please don’t take a chance’
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Katherine Henderson urged people to follow the rules for the remainder of the festive period.
She said, “Please don’t take a chance on this, please don’t make it likely that we have an additional surge. Don’t mix, wear masks, wash your hands, keep separate.”
Household mixing is banned for people in most of England living in Tier 3 or Tier 4 areas, and more places could yet be put under harsher measures after the next tier review on 30 December.
Some areas will most likely be placed under Tier 4, but there is also speculation that the government could introduce a new, more restrictive Tier 5, with schools likely forced to close.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on 29 December asking residents not to mix households this New Year’s Eve.
She said, “Covid cases are rising. Level 4 restrictions are now in place across mainland Scotland to suppress the new strain.
"It is especially vital that we do not mix indoors with other households, including at Hogmanay.
"Please plan to bring in 2021 at home with your own household."
‘Staff illness is a major concern’
While the South East and London have seen the most dramatic rise in cases and hospitalisations, experts are concerned that the rest of England may soon follow.
Speaking to The Times, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, Nick Scriven, said, “Outside of London the worry at the moment is that all of the same issues are occurring but from a worse ‘starting point’ as the Midlands/North never really exited the first wave.”
Another concern is the toll that the pandemic has taken, and will continue to take, on healthcare workers.
Mr Scriven added, “Staff illness is also a major concern now, with suggestions that 10 per cent are already affected but that is likely to worsen”.