The scale of the health emergency now facing the UK was laid bare on Wednesday night as figures showed that more than 1,000 people had died from the virus in the previous 24 hours and hospitals reported treating a record 30,000 Covid patients.
The alarming rise in fatalities came two days after the prime minister ordered a draconian new lockdown, which was endorsed overwhelmingly in a Commons vote on Wednesday.
The daily death toll for the UK of 1,041 people was the worst since the first wave of the virus last spring, and the number of new cases hit a fresh high of 62,322.
Boris Johnson was forced to defend his handling of the Covid pandemic as:
• None 3,587 people were admitted to hospitals in England known to be suffering with Covid – surpassing the previous record high hit last weekend
• None Manchester city council leader Sir Richard Leese warned that Greater Manchester hospitals were “at serious risk of falling over”
• None Care home providers warned that rates of infection are rising as they await delivery of the vaccine, with one home in Sussex losing half its residents over Christmas
• None Headteachers warned that some schools are “rammed”, despite the lockdown.
The PM urged the public to stay at home on Monday, almost a fortnight after the government’s Sage committee warned that the new variant of the disease meant it was unlikely to be possible to bring it under control without tougher measures, including the closure of schools.
Speaking to MPs in Westminster, where the House of Commons was recalled to discuss the new lockdown rules, Johnson insisted the tiered Covid restrictions in England had been working, until the arrival of the new variant of the disease.
And he accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of making “party political points” when Starmer claimed the necessity for another lockdown was “not just bad luck and it is not inevitable” but the result of the PM’s failure to act earlier.
Johnson blamed the new variant, saying: “It is inescapable that the facts are changing, and we must change our response.”
But Starmer cited what he called a “pattern” of poor decision-making, including Johnson’s refusal to sanction a “circuit-breaker” lockdown in September, and to heed an official report that warned last summer of the challenges of a second wave, including the risk that the virus could mutate.
“We had a tiered system that did not work, and then we had the debacle of the delayed decision to change the rules on mixing at Christmas,” Starmer said. “The most recent advice about the situation we are now in was given on 22 December, but no action was taken for two weeks until Monday of this week. These are the decisions that have led us to the position we are now in.”
The government’s abrupt about-turn on schools opening caused chaos, with teachers hastily forced to prepare online lessons at just hours’ notice. With schools remaining open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, many are reporting significantly higher attendance than during last year’s lockdown. Read from source….