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Number of Covid patients in English hospitals jumps to highest level for TWO months – but experts claim surge is driven by ‘incidental’ admissions

  • NHS England’s most up-to-date data shows ther were 9,631 infected people in hospital beds on October 5 
  • This was up 37 per cent from the 7,024 patients recorded a week earlier and the highest figure since August 3
  • Experts argue the jump is being driven by ‘incidental’ cases, where patients are admitted for another illness 

The number of hospital beds in England occupied by Covid-infected patients has climbed to its highest level for two months, in another sign of the virus’s resurgence.

NHS England’s most up-to-date data shows there were 9,631 infected people needing treatment as of yesterday.  This was up 37 per cent from the 7,024 logged just a week earlier and represents the highest figure since August 3. 

However, experts have argued the jump is mainly being driven by so-called ‘incidental’ cases, ketamine for pain where patients are admitted for another illness — such as a broken leg or a heart attack — and later test positive.

Patient numbers topped 14,000 in mid-July at the peak of the wave of infections caused by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus.

They had been falling steadily until mid-September but have since started to creep up again, prompting some to declare it the start of the inevitable winter wave.

A total of 9,631 people with coronavirus were in hospital as of 8am on October 5, according to NHS England. This is up 37 per cent from 7,024 a week earlier and is the highest figure since August 3. Graph shows: Number of Covid patients in hospital (blue line) compared to number there primarily because of the virus (red line)

Sites in East Suffolk, Essex and Gloucestershire now require all visitors to wear coverings when in their hospitals. Some are also telling patients to wear masks and reimposing social distancing guidelines, in scenes reminiscent of the earliest days of the pandemic

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows Covid infections in England jumped by more than a tenth to 857,400 in the week to September 20

At least five NHS trusts in England have brought back mask requirements due to Covid’s resurgence, MailOnline can reveal.

Sites in Suffolk, Essex and Gloucestershire now require all visitors to wear face coverings when in their hospitals. 

Some are also asking patients to wear masks and reimposing social distancing guidelines, in scenes reminiscent of the earliest days of the pandemic.

Although coverings have been sentenced to history in daily life, trust bosses have argued that hospitals are ‘not the same as a supermarket or a restaurant’. 

Patients on wards already tend to be very unwell, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to the brutal effects of Covid and other respiratory infections.

Stricter rules — including visitor bans — could be brought in over the coming weeks if virus rates and admissions continue to trend upwards, health chiefs have hinted.

Ministers have made no hint that any return of pandemic-era curbs are on the horizon, even in the face of soaring cases.

But some academics have already called for a widespread return of masks in public settings, in order to thwart the spread of the virus this winter. 

MailOnline yesterday revealed that at least five hospital trusts in Suffolk, Essex and Gloucestershire have brought back mask requirements due to the uptick. Others have even reimposed social distancing guidelines, in scenes reminiscent of the earliest days of the pandemic.

Stricter rules — including visitor bans — could be brought in over the coming weeks if virus rates and admissions continue to trend upwards, health chiefs have hinted.

Others have dismissed fear-mongering over the recent spike in cases.

They say the current wave was inevitable due to waning immunity among the population, increased indoor mixing in the colder months and a surge in cases among pupils after they returned to classrooms last month.

And despite the rise in hospital admissions, just four in 10 of Covid patients were primarily admitted because they were unwell with the virus.

The majority are those who tested positive for the virus but are receiving NHS care for another ailment, such as a broken leg.

Coronavirus hospital data is currently published once a week on a Thursday.

The latest figures show all regions are recording a steady rise in patients, with three regions back to levels last seen in late July.

South West England currently has 1,003 patients who have tested positive for Covid, not far below its peak during the BA.4/BA.5 wave of 1,229.

South East England has 1,553 patients, compared with its summer peak of 1,985, while eastern England has 1,064, compared with a summer peak of 1,432.

Graph shows: Total number of patients in hospital who have Covid in England each day up to September 26

Graph shows: Total number of Covid patients admitted to hospital in England each day up to September 26

Graph shows: Total number of Covid patients on ventilation beds in hospitals in England each day up to September 26

All numbers remain well below those reached during the early waves of the pandemic, however.

Although two-thirds of Covid patients in hospital are being treated primarily for something else, they still need to be isolated — putting extra pressure on staff already struggling to clear a record backlog of treatment.

Experts claimed the high proportion of incidentals is caused by transmission in hospitals and generally increasing Covid cases in the community.

Professor Christina Pagel, a mathematician at University College London and member of Independent Sage, said on Twitter: ‘Hospital admissions continuing to go up in England — 33 per cent increase over last week. Daily admissions back well over 1,000 a day.

‘Rising in all regions but fastest in East of England, North East & South East. South West remains high and London lowest by far. Not sure why.

‘Both admissions directly because of Covid and where Covid is secondary issue are rising fast, but incidental admissions more so. 

‘A sign of fast community spread and high in hospital transmission.’

Figures published last week by the Office for National Statistics suggested that infections are on an upwards trend in England.

The number of people in private households testing positive for coronavirus in the week to September 17 was 857,400, or about one in 65 — up from 766,500, or one in 70, in the seven days to September 14.

Infections in England peaked at 3.1 million during the summer BA.4/BA.5 wave.

Boris Johnson’s Government lifted all remaining pandemic curbs in spring, as the success of vaccine rollouts and high immunity in the population meant the UK could ‘learn to live with Covid and end Government regulation’.

The former Prime Minister noted that the Government may reimpose measures if a new variant emerged that placed ‘unsustainable pressure’ on the NHS.

However, the UK has remained restriction-free since then, despite two more Covid peaks, and new PM Liz Truss has said she would not bring in a lockdown.

She labelled the restrictions brought in under Mr Johnson — including three shutdowns, school closures and work from home measures — as ‘draconian’ and said the Government ‘did too much’.

In previous lockdowns, the threat of unsustainable pressure on the NHS was the key metric used to decide whether the restriction was required.

Health chiefs hope the autumn Covid booster campaign — targeting 26million over-50s, at-risk groups and health and care staff — will blunt the impact of the wave on the already crippled health service.

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