The number of patients in hospitals in England is 40% higher than the first peak, a senior health chief said (Image: Getty Images)
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Christmas mixing caused a huge surge in Covid-19 cases, with the number of people hospitalised now 40 per cent higher than the first peak.
This morning a public health warned the crisis is at its "most serious" point.
On December 29 and 30, 130,000 new cases were identified following the government's decision to allow Christmas bubbles in some parts of the country.
Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of the national infections service at Public Health England (PHE), voiced the bleak outlook as frontline medics battle a surge in cases.
She told BBC Breakfast: "This position is the most serious we've been in so far this pandemic.
Dr Susan Hopkins said the crisis is at its 'most serious' point so far
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"We are now seeing a number of patients in hospitals 40% higher than the cases at the peak in March/April.
"And we know that the cases in the community are still rising. And that means that we expect to see further admissions to hospital, and we expect to see further deaths."
Yesterday the Department of Health confirmed that 60,916 people had tested positive in 24 hours, bringing the number of cases in the past seven days to 391,615.
Dr Hopkins said the "maximum impact" of mixing over Christmas was seen on December 29 and 30 – with more than 70,000 cases reported on the 29th and 60,000 on the 30th in England alone.
Dr Hopkins said the crisis is at its 'most serious' point
(Image: Getty Images)
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"We hope that everyone is now staying at home, reducing their contacts, and that we can start to see rapid declines in new infections."
She said it could take 12 to 14 days for infections to come down after the introduction of lockdown restrictions.
"I'm hopeful that because London went into the restrictions on the 18th of December, that we are starting to see a flattening in London.
"It's still rising in other parts of the country, and I would expect that if people really take heed and reduce their contacts that we will start seeing a reduction in cases in about 10 days' time."
The number of coronavirus cases surged in the days after Christmas
(Image: Getty Images)
But on a more hopeful note, she said Public Health England was able to deliver vaccines seven days a week.
Dr Hopkins said closing schools could have a positive effect on driving down infections saying: "Because children not only are interacting in school but also on the way to school, on school buses, they are having conversations outside, and it's all of those little things that we are advising Government that need to be avoided."
Asked if schools would go back after February half-term, she said: "I think it will really depends on the epidemiology of the virus… we will have to look at it by year, age group by age group, as happened the first time round, and the final decisions will lay with Government over when they want to bring the students back."
Asked if it could not be ruled out that schools would stay off beyond February half-term, she said: "We can't rule it out, but they will be the first back to school, it will be the first thing to open, that would be our advice."