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Increase in COVID-19 deaths in England ‘baked in’ after infection spike, deputy CMO warns

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam warned that COVID-19 deaths will increase in the next few weeks in England. (PA Images via Getty Images)
  • Spike in coronavirus deaths inevitable after recent wave of new cases, Jonathan Van Tam warns

  • He says deaths are “baked in” with increased infections – with more patients in hospital now than when national lockdown was enforced in March

  • It comes as Nightingale hospitals in north of England are asked to mobilise

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The recent spike in coronavirus cases will lead to an increase in deaths in a matter of weeks, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned.

Jonathan Van Tam said further hospitalisations and deaths are “baked in” after coronavirus cases rose across the country.

He said the number of patients currently in hospital is related to infections from three weeks ago.

“As patients become ill with COVID-19 they don’t immediately go to hospital,” Van Tam told a Downing Street briefing.

“It takes some time before they become ill enough to go to hospital, and they don’t die the moment they arrive.

“The point I’m trying to make here is there is a lag between cases and when we see hospital admissions rise and when we see deaths rise.”

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said COVID-19 cases were on the increase after a "flat summer" (Department for Health)
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said COVID-19 cases were on the increase after a “flat summer” (Department for Health)

Van Tam was joined at the COVID-19 briefing by NHS England’s Stephen Powis, who doubled down on the stark warning as he announced Nightingale hospitals in the north of England have been asked to mobilise to deal with a rise in coronavirus patients.

Powis said there are more patients in hospital in England now than there were when the UK went into a full national lockdown on 23 March.

It means the temporary Nightingales in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate could be brought back into use to help with the spike in cases.

Local clinicians will decide whether they are used for COVID patients or to provide extra capacity to maintain services for people without the virus.

COVID hospital admissions are rising fastest amongst the elderly, Powis added.

At the same briefing, Dr Jane Eddleston, medical lead in Greater Manchester, urged the public to “respect” the virus due to the “extremely serious” consequences it has for some patients.

Dr Eddleston said: “I stress to you the importance of us taking this disease extremely seriously.

“We are still finding that a quarter of patients that are admitted to intensive care are still required to go on mechanical ventilator within 24 hours of admission. This is very serious.

“The condition produces a very profound inflammation of the lungs which does have serious consequences for patients and I would ask you all to respect the virus and follow the advice we’re being given.”

She added 30% of critical care beds are being taken up by COVID patients, and “this is starting to impact on the services we provide for other