The peak of new hospital admissions of people with coronavirus will be “over the next week to 10 days”, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said.
He told a Downing Street press conference on Friday “we hope” that the peak of infections “already has happened” in the south-east, east and London, where there was a surge in the Kent variant, but will be later elsewhere.
“The peak of deaths I fear is in the future, the peak of hospitalisations in some parts of the country may be around about now and beginning to come off the very, very top,” he said.
“Because people are sticking so well to the guidelines we do think the peaks are coming over the next week to 10 days for most places in terms of new people into hospital.”
The number of people who have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 87,295 – an increase of 1,280 over 24 hours.
Whitty added the coronavirus restrictions would need to be lifted gradually. “We’re not going to move from a sudden lockdown situation to nothing,” he said.
“It will have to be walking backwards by degrees, testing what works, and then if that works going the next step.”
It came as Boris Johnson used the press conference to scrap the UK’s travel corridors, meaning arrivals from every country must self-isolate for at least five days.
The prime minister told the Downing Street press conference that the measure is in response to the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and the discovery of new strains of the virus.
He said: “It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country.
“Yesterday we announced that we’re banning flights from South America and Portugal and to protect us against the risk from as-yet-unidentified strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 0400 on Monday.”
People arriving in the UK from a destination with a travel corridor are currently exempt from the 10-day quarantine requirement.
The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.
It had already been announced that travellers arriving in England and Scotland from Monday will need to have a negative test taken up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.