THE FULL impact of Christmas lockdown easing on coronavirus cases has still to be seen, a leading medic has said.

Professor Stephen Powis was speaking at the Downing Street press conference today when he explained the country’s fight against Covid-19 was now “tougher than it has ever been”.

He said hospitals may still be under strain until February, and explained the number of patients admitted to hospital with coronavirus has risen by a third in less than two weeks.

The national medical director of NHS England was joining UK Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock at today’s briefing to discuss more about the mass vaccination programme ongoing across the country.

He said: "The public should be a no doubt that this fight is tougher than it has ever been.

“Since Christmas Day there are 13,000, more patients in hospital with COVID-19 and in less than a fortnight into 2021, the number of people in hospital with COVID has already gone up by a third - a rise of around 8000.”

He said the infections have been “stubbornly high” and added: “ We are seeing stubbornly high levels of infection, and unfortunately deaths too, which is sadly an inevitable consequence of the rapid spread of the virus in recent weeks.

“Hospitals throughout the country and are seeing significant and sustained pressure from those rising numbers of COVID-19 patients. Even in the area of the country with the lowest number of patients -  the South west [of England] - has more people in hospital now than the entire country combined did at the end of September.”

The medic continued: “With hospital admissions typically occurring around two weeks after transmission of the virus, we're still to see the full impact of the Christmas loosening of restrictions reflected in those hospital numbers.”

Mr Hancock said the UK Government was currently putting together the “biggest vaccination plan in our history” and continued to urge people to abide by the social distancing rules.

He said that any “flexing” of the restrictions was putting people at risk.

He was asked if members of the public were allowed to take exercise miles away from their homes, following a report that the Prime Minister was spotted seven miles from Downing Street – at London’s Olympic Park – cycling this weekend.


The Health Secretary said: “It is okay to go if you went for a long walk, and ended up seven miles away from home… that is okay, but you should stay local.

“You should not go from one side of the country to another taking the potentially taking the virus with you.”

Downing Street has failed to explain Boris Johnson’s presence at the park on Sunday, only to say he was exercising.