The Prime Minister has announced a national lockdown and instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis welcomed the news and is encouraging everyone to follow the new rules for the sake of hospital and care home staff.
‘The new restrictions are tough, but the virus has to be beaten. Otherwise, the NHS could be overwhelmed, with terrible consequences for those needing care.
‘While most of us will now be safe at home, key staff in hospitals, schools, care homes and other essential services will keep doing their jobs, despite the risks. Many are exhausted, covering for colleagues off sick with Covid.
‘Without a doubt, the government should have acted sooner. But now the new rules are here, we must all do our bit.
‘The next few months will be grim, but the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.’
Health bosses said the decision to lockdown comes following a rapid rise in infections, hospital admissions and case rates across the country.
The Department of Health and Social Care said hospitals are now under more pressure than they have been at any other point throughout the pandemic.
This drastic jump in cases has been attributed to the new variant of COVID-19, which scientists have confirmed is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.
On January 4, there were 26,626 Covid patients in hospital in England, an increase of over 30% in one week, and the April 2020 hospital admissions peak has now been surpassed by 40%.
The case rate in England up to December 29 was 478.5 per 100k, three times higher than on December 1 when the case rate was 151.3.
On Jan 3, 454 deaths were reported, with 4,228 over the last 7 days, a 24% increase on the previous seven days.
The restrictions come into effect tomorrow (January 6) and are expected to last until the middle of February if the situation in hospitals improves.
By this point, the NHS hopes to have vaccinated everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the JCVI – including older care home residents and staff, everyone over 70, all frontline NHS and care staff and all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
NHS bosses say vaccinating the most vulnerable will protect those at highest risk from COVID-19 and this will remove a significant amount of the pressure currently facing the NHS.
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