Coronavirus admissions to hospital and intensive care units have spiked dramatically in recent weeks, shocking new figures show.
Data unveiled by Boris Johnson at a Number 10 press conference showed the number of intensive care admissions rise dramatically in almost every age group and region.
At a press conference alongside Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister said he had announced new lockdown measures last week because the number of Covid patients going into hospital had doubled.
Professor Whitty said the number of ICU admissions was clearly going “in the wrong direction”, but was not threatening hospital capacity.
He said: “We are pointing out that the direction of travel for both hospitals and intensive care is going in the wrong direction, particularly in these areas that have seen rapid increases in cases.”
He insisted the NHS was “open for business” and urged people not to avoid medical care.
Asked whether the government was moving fast enough to combat the virus, Sir Patrick admitted: “It’s very clear that rates are still going up and we don’t have this under control at the moment.”
And Mr Johnson called for “collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices” in the battle against coronavirus, warning that tougher measures could be introduced if the evidence showed they were needed.
Mr Johnson said: “I wish I could tell you tonight that the impact of this package had already begun to appear.
“But it will take time to feed through.”
He said he would be providing “regular updates through these press conferences” and that he was confident that the country would “get through this.”
He urged the public to follow the rules, warning tougher measures may follow if they don’t.
He said: “No matter how impatient we may be, no matter how fed up we become, there is only one way to do this, and that is to show collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices.
“I have to be clear, that if the evidence requires it we will not hesitate to take further measures that would, I’m afraid, be more costly than the ones we’ve put into effect now.”
Sir Patrick said: “It would be wrong to take from this that this is a problem that’s only in certain areas. It’s worse in certain areas, but there is evidence of spread everywhere.”
But Mr Johnson said: “I do think it is possible that there is a difference now in the way the disease is expressing itself in the country.
“We are seeing some very clear local peaks… just as there were local peaks in Italy and other countries.
“And it may be, it’s too early to say, but it may be that this is a more localised phenomenon this time.”
The Prime Minister said the country was at a “critical moment” and that he would not hesitate to a bring in new measures if required.
“If we put in the work together now then we give ourselves the best possible chance of avoiding that outcome and avoiding further measures,” he said.
“I know some people will think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that would potentially entail.
“I have to say I profoundly disagree. I don’t think that is what the British people want. I don’t think they want to throw in the sponge. They want to fight and defeat this virus and that is what we are going to do.”
“I am absolutely confident that with better treatments and with the prospect of a vaccine we will get through this,” he said.
“Let’s follow the rules, wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social-distancing, download the app, and together we will fight back against this virus, protect the NHS and save more lives.”
Meanwhile, the number of young people testing positive continues to rise, particularly in those aged between 17 and 21.
But the rate of positive tests among younger children remains broadly the same, which Professor Whitty said showed the low risk to school-aged children.
It came as the UK registered more than 7,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day running.
Another 71 deaths were also reported, the same number as Tuesday, meaning the death toll now stands at 42,143.
Earlier Boris Johnson was forced to defend his confusion over his own lockdown rules at Prime Minister’s Questions as Keir Starmer said he was “not surprised” by the gaffe.
The PM yesterday appeared to get the facts of his own local lockdown rules wrong before being forced into an embarrassing apology.