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Professor Chris Whitty has warned that "avoidable deaths" are inevitable unless people start obeying the lockdown.

He predicted that emergency patients will be turned away from hospitals, resulting in unnecessary fatalities, if Covid admissions continue to rise.

England's Chief Medical Officer argued that people who break the rules by meeting others are a 'link in a chain' that puts the most vulnerable at risk.

The professor said the NHS faced being overwhelmed within a fortnight, with some areas facing 'the most dangerous situation anyone can remember'.

Professor Whitty warned that if admissions continue to rise hospitals will run out of room and staff will be swamped with an 'unacceptable' number of patients.

Writing in The Times, he added that patients would face 'unsafe' waits for treatment.

Professor Chris Whitty has warned Brits to follow the lockdown
(Image: PA)

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The professor wrote: "If the virus continues on this trajectory, hospitals will be in real difficulties, and soon.

"Hospitals won’t have room to take redirected emergency cases… staff-to-patient ratios, which are already stretched, will become unacceptable even in places like intensive care. There will be avoidable deaths.

"The advice right now is unambiguous: to drive the numbers down, we must stay home except for work, exercise and essential activities."

Covid hospital admissions are at a record high
(Image: Getty Images)

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The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital is at a record high in England, while the official coronavirus death toll for the UK passed 80,000 on Saturday and lab-confirmed cases hit more than three million.

It comes as ambulance services are under "unprecedented pressure" with handover delays at a scale never seen before, a leading paramedic has said.

Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics, said some ambulance crews have reported waiting up to nine hours to transfer a patient to hospital staff in areas where there is increased pressure on NHS services.

Health workers could soon be swamped with an 'unacceptable' number of patients
(Image: PA)

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She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme there have also been delays in getting ambulances to people in need, with some waiting "up to 10 hours" in high-pressure areas.

Ms Nicholls said: "It (the ambulance service) is under unprecedented pressure.

"We are very used to seeing ambulance services take some strain over the winter months due to the normal pressures we would see any particular year.

Ambulance crews have reported waiting up to nine hours to transfer a patient
(Image: PA)

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"But this year particularly has seen incredible pressure because of the clinical presentation of the patients our members are seeing. They are sicker."

Doctors have warned that pressure on the NHS could get worse in the coming weeks, as figures for Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths hit record highs.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital in England stood at a record 29,346 as of 8am on Friday, up by 30% from a week ago, while admissions also hit a new high, according to NHS England figures.

Ms Nicholls said: "We are seeing the ambulance handover delays at a scale we haven't seen before."

She added: "Our members have reported to us they can wait as little as half an hour. We've had some members wait five, six, seven, eight and even nine hours.

"But I would say the hidden risk – your viewers can see the ambulances at the hospitals – that doesn't take into account the huge number of patients that are waiting for an ambulance that can't get to them."

Ms Nicholls said that, while there "does not appear" to be a delay in ambulance response times for category one life-threatening callouts, there is for category three and four calls.

"Category three calls would be things like abdominal pains or falls, and some of those patients in those high-pressure areas have waited up to 10 hours," she said.