Northern Nightingales on standby as map shows coronavirus spreading South and hospitals '4 weeks off Covid peak'

NHS Nightingale hospitals across the North have been put on standby as coronavirus cases are spreading South, doctors have warned.

NHS England boss Professor Stephen Powis said Nightingales Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have been asked to prepare to take patients.

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He also said that all NHS hospital staff in coronavirus hotspots will now be tested regularly regardless of symptoms.

It comes as Covid cases have soared across areas in the north of England and hospital admissions are expected to follow, experts say.

Knowsley and Liverpool, two of the affected areas, are in the top three for infection rates in England – at 669.5 per 100,000 people and 598.5 respectively.

In the seven days to October 8, the areas reported nearly 4,000 new cases.

The North West had 180 hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Friday and, as of Sunday had a total of 1,218 patients in hospital.

Yet the numbers fall far short of the doomsday prediction made by Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty of 50,000 cases by mid-October.

The Government advisers made the bleak forecast during a press conference on September 22 – where they also warned there would be about 4,000 infections each day by tomorrow.

Cases are now beginning to flare up across other parts of the countries, amid fears hospital admissions and deaths with subsequently follow.

Speaking last night, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned the UK had reached a “tipping point” in the epidemic.

He added: “Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed.

“Now we know where it is and how to tackle it. Let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating.”

It comes as overnight stays in northern virus hotspots are set to be banned for four weeks.

Boris Johnson is also expected to say that residents can only leave the highest risk regions for essential travel such as work, education or health reasons – and must return that day.


Mr Johnson will announce his “tiers for fears” system today — with Tier Three the highest risk.

Tier One — medium risk — will see current social distancing measures, the “rule of six” and a pub curfew of 10pm enforced.

Areas in Tier Two will have the same restrictions plus a ban on households mixing.

Only two households will be able to mix, and then only in gardens. In Tier Three “very high” risk areas overnight stays will be outlawed for residents and visitors.

Pubs and bars will be required to close and no household mixing will be allowed for socialising either indoors or outdoors.

Tier Three gyms and leisure facilities are expected to close. But, after a furious backlash, restaurants are likely to be able to serve until 10pm but without booze.

RED ALERT

It's understood that Liverpool, Manchester and parts of Yorkshire are on red alert to be placed in Tier Three, possibly with Exeter in the South.

Last night the PM told the Cabinet the nation stands at a “critical juncture” and more must be done to avoid triggering full lockdowns.

Tier Three households will not be allowed to mix either indoors or outdoors.

The restrictions are likely to hit Liverpool, Manchester and parts of Yorkshire from as early as today. They will be reviewed monthly.

The PM sees his clampdown, to be unveiled this evening, as a gamble to avoid a nationwide “circuit breaker” shutdown over half term.

That is still on the table according to one senior minister — although it was publicly denied today.

Mr Johnson, who held a telephone conference with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday, will chair a COBRA emergency committee meeting on Monday "to determine the final interventions" which he will then announce to Parliament.

MPs will be asked to debate and vote on the measures later this week.

The Prime Minister will hold a press conference in Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty later on Monday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.

"We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.

"This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus."

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