The health secretary dismisses pressure from some Conservative MPs to begin easing England’s third national lockdown from the 8th of March
The NHS is considering plans to discharge it’s patients into hotels as the nation’s hospitals become packed with COVID-19 patients, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed, saying that it was “impossible to know” how long the nation-wide lockdown restrictions might last.
This comes after Prof Chris Whitty has urged the British public to minimise all unnecessary contact with other people. The next few weeks, before the rollout of vaccines nation-wide, will be the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic for the NHS, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Matt Hancock told Sky News that the government would “look at all options” to relieve pressures on the National Health Service, with more than 35,000 COVID-19 patients currently residing in hospitals across the UK.
“There are huge pressures on the NHS and, as you’d expect, we’re looking to all different ways that we can relieve those pressures,” he said.
The health secretary has said that the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London had begun taking patients as “back-up”, but that cabinet ministers had alternative plans “in case there’s more that’s needed”.
Asked about reports that thousands of NHS patients could be discharged early from hospitals into hotels or their own homes to free up more beds, Mr Hancock said: “We’d ony ever do that if it was clinically the right thing for somebody.”
“But in some cases, people need step-down care, they don’t actually need to be in a hospital bed.”
“So this isn’t a concrete proposal by any means, but it’s something we look at, because we look at all contingencies.”
This comes after the locations of the seven new mass vaccination centres for COVID-19 that will be opening this week have now been revealed by the UK government in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.
The government is targeting to offer 15 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the 15th of February, with the health secretary saying that the vaccination programme is “on track” to meet the mid-February deadline.
Over 2.8 million coronavirus vaccines have so far been given to more than 2.4 million people across the United Kingdom so far.
Asda announced on Wednesday that the supermarket chain will begin providing vaccinations from an in-store pharmacy in Birmingham within the last week of January.
Mr Hancock said: “The measures that we’ve got in place, that we hope to be able to lift, that we should be able to lift when we’ve been able to protect through vaccination those who are vulnerable.”
But he added that “right now, the vaccine is not yet in a position to do that”.