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The UK's Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst point and hospitals won't get quieter until February, the Health Secretary has warned today.
And Matt Hancock warned the Government would not rule out tightening lockdown restrictions further still.
He said there are 32,294 people in hospital with the coronavirus across the UK, while daily admissions are above the first wave.
Hancock told the Downing Street press conference: "We're at the worst point of this pandemic."
A total of 3,718 hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England were reported for January 9, NHS England figures also showed.
This is slightly below the record number of 3,967 admissions reported for January 6, but up 18% on the equivalent figure a week ago on January 2.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, today
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During the first wave of the virus, admissions peaked at 3,099 on April 1 2020.
The number comprises all patients admitted in the previous 24 hours who were known to have Covid-19, plus any patients diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.
There have been 926 deaths on average each day over past week, Hancock revealed.
He added that "we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed" regarding more restrictions for England, as he pleaded with the public to follow coronavirus rules and reduce all social contact that is not “absolutely” necessary.
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He told the press conference that the new variant of coronavirus is “highly contagious and it is putting the NHS under very significant pressure”.
Mr Hancock echoed England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty in saying “we’re at the worst point in this pandemic”.
And he said: “The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules.
“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.
National Medical Director at NHS England Stephen Powis joined Matt Hancock today
“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed: act like you have the virus.”
NHS England medical director Stephen Powis warned "Hospitals are under significant and sustained pressure."
He added: "The vaccine is not a free pass to ignore national guidance."
Meanwhile Hancock admitted scientists do not yet know if the extent to which a vaccinated person can transmit the virus to another person.
Hancock said: “We don’t yet know how much one may transmit Covid after a vaccine.”
He added: “The lifting of restrictions depends on achieving targets on vaccination plus getting over 60s inoculated.”
While Professor Powis added: “We are not going to see reductions in admissions until February.”
The National Medical Director for England has said that seven vaccination hubs and more than 1,000 pharmacies are gearing up to start delivering Covid-19 jabs.
Professor Stephen Powis said that 1,200 pharmacies in England alone will join the vaccination roll-out.
“We will then kick off another sprint up to April as we get the rest of the vulnerable groups protected and finally a marathon to the autumn as we deliver vaccination to everyone else,” he said.
He added that, apart from social distancing and Covid-19 safety measures, “these vaccines are the best line of defence that we have as we continue this battle against coronavirus”.
So far, 2.286 million people have received a Covid-19 vaccine first dose, 1.959 million people have been vaccinated with first dose in England, 163,377 in Scotland, 86,039 in Wales, 78,005 in Northern Ireland.
Mr Hancock said: “The top four priority groups account for 88% of deaths.
"We want to reach every care home resident this month."
He promises “We’re on track to deliver on pledge for top four groups" and have "accelerated care home rollout."
The Health Secretary added vaccines are important as “I want us to have a great British summer.”