Hospital bosses have warned that any further relaxing of restrictions could trigger a third wave at the busiest time of the year for the NHS.
In an urgent letter to the prime minister, NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said all areas should be moved to the highest tier of restrictions ‘as soon as this is needed, without any delay’.
The first review of England’s three-tier system is due to take place on Wednesday, just two weeks after it was implemented. London is one of the areas at risk of being plunged under the toughest restrictions, after data revealed it has the highest infection rate in the UK.
Most regions in England recorded a week-on-week fall in cases but NHS Providers urged ‘extreme caution’ when deciding to move any area into a lower tier.
Chief executive Chris Hopson told the BBC: ‘We’re about to hit our busiest time of year so people are really worried that if we relax the restrictions now the NHS simply won’t be able to cope with all of the work that it needs to do in late December, January and February.’
The letter stopped short of calling for a review of the five-day Christmas relaxation period but said it was ‘vital’ the public understands the risk of increased social contact during that period.
Mr Hopson told Sky: ‘Any extra social contact equals more virus spread. People need to think really carefully about what their Christmas plans are going to be.’
‘We need a much better debate about the risks of what’s going to happen over Christmas. We are very worried,’ he added.
A Government spokeswoman said ministers will not ‘hesitate to take necessary actions to protect local communities’ and that decisions are made based on the latest available data.
‘We have introduced strengthened local restrictions to protect the progress gained during national restrictions, reduce pressure on the NHS and ultimately save lives,’ the spokeswoman said.
‘On top of our record NHS investment, this winter we are providing an extra £3 billion to maintain independent sector and Nightingale hospital surge capacity and a further £450 million to upgrade and expand A&Es.’
Meanwhile, the Health Secretary has indicated that towns and villages will not be able to move alert level by being ‘decoupled’ from nearby coronavirus hotspots.
Matt Hancock said in a letter to Tory MPs that ‘narrow carve-outs’ of lower prevalence areas often leads to them ‘catching up’ or ‘overtaking’ areas with higher levels, according to the Daily Telegraph.
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