Matt Hancock press conference: Health Sec to address nation from No10 with NHS on brink

Nadhim Zahawi: Vaccine rollout should be done ‘by persuasion’

It comes as the health service is facing its most precarious position in its history, with NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens warning the next few days would be the most critical for hospitals since the start of the pandemic. Coronavirus patient numbers are continuing to surge, despite the rapid rollout of vaccinations.

Yesterday a further 4,179 people were admitted to hospital, with 37,475 coronavirus patients currently occupying beds in wards across the country.

Sir Simon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The facts are very clear and I’m not going to sugar coat them.

“Hospitals are under extreme pressure and staff are under extreme pressure.

“Since Christmas Day we’ve seen another 15,000 increase in the inpatients in hospitals across England.

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“That’s the equivalent of filling 30 hospitals full of coronavirus patients and, staggeringly, every 30 seconds across England another patient is being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.”

While the NHS is facing unprecedented strain, the Minister today announced they were increasing the speed of the UK’s inoculation programme which will help ease pressure in the weeks to come.

Speaking from Downing Street at 5pm tonight, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will tell the nation over-70s will start to be contacted this week about booking appointments for a Covid jab.

So far the UK has focused on immunising over-80s, care home residents and carers, and NHS staff.

Mr Hancock will hail the expansion of the vaccination programme as a huge step forward in Britain’s battle to ease coronavirus restrictions once and for all.

However, he will stress it “does not mean our focus on getting care homes, health care staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering — it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks”.

The Health Secretary will also explain another 10 vaccination hubs have been opened today, increasing the number of daily jabs that can be delivered.

Already on average 140 people are being given a jab every minute, with the hope the new centres will mean as many as 400,000 people could be immunised every day.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said this morning while the NHS was facing significant pressure, the speed of the vaccine rollout means there should be a “marked reduction” in those being admitted to hospital by the middle of next month.

Looking at data from Israel, Mr Zahawi said: “There is some really good early data from Israel, where they have vaccinated 20 percent of the over-60s and they are beginning to see, two weeks later, a marked reduction in the serious illness and death in that same cohort.

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“So, two weeks after mid-February, we should be seeing a marked reduction in death and of course serious illness.

“We begin to gradually reopen and schools will be a priority – the Prime Minister was desperate to keep them open and as a last resort we had to close them.

“He wants them first back.”

While a majority of Brits remain confident the NHS can cope with the coronavirus crisis, fears it could be overwhelmed have grown among the public.

A new Ipsos MORI survey found 35 percent of Brits fear the NHS is at risk during the current surge in hospital admissions.

Public confidence has fallen 12 points from November and now stands at the lowest level since the pandemic began.

The pollsters spoke to 1,065 British adults aged 18-75 between January 8 and January 11.

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