The NHS is coming under “significant” pressure amid a rise in Covid cases in virtually every area of England, the chief medical officer has warned, with hospitalizations likely to continue increasing at least until April.
Prof Chris Whitty said the mounting numbers of people becoming infected was likely to be largely driven by the new Omicron variant, BA.2. The sharp resurgence of the coronavirus underlined that the crisis “is not over”, Whitty added.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health, Whitty also said those hoping for an “end point” should not expect one, with coronavirus likely to remain a threat to public health for decades.
Whitty raised concerns that other areas of public health had “gone backwards” in the last two years, including obesity and alcohol. Child obesity rates in particular were now “significantly worse” than they were at the start of the pandemic, he warned.
However, while there was an urgent need to tackle problems in a number of other areas of public health, Covid-19 remained a major threat, he said. “Covid cases are now rising quite rapidly – from quite a high base – and this is driven by a number of different factors, of which BA.2, the new Omicron variant is a large part. Rates are high and rising in virtually all parts of England. “
While the rise in cases was not leading to a surge in deaths, Whitty added, the NHS was seeing increasing numbers of people requiring hospital treatment for Covid.