An intensive care unit (ICU) specialist has said people have ‘blood on their hands’ if they don’t wear a mask and willingly flout the COVID-19 rules.
Professor Hugh Montgomery told BBC Radio 5 Live hospitals were facing a “tsunami” of cases over the next few weeks and they were already stretched thin.
He said: “Anyone who is listening to this who doesn’t wear their mask, who behaves like this, they have blood on their hands, they’re spreading this virus other people will spread it and people will die and they won’t know they’ve killed people but they have.”
Prof Montgomery, who works at Whittington Hospital in north London, said they were reaching levels not seen since the first wave.
He said: “The wards are flooded, everyone’s working at maximum stretch really, we’ve had to double up or sometimes triple up on consultant staff in.”
“The nursing staff are back to being very-overstretched and in some areas, it’s one ICU nurse to four patients again, and the numbers are still rising.”
Union leaders are warning that health workers face burnout, soaring sickness levels and “intolerable” pressures because of the ongoing crisis.
Rates of infection are continuing to rise in all regions of the country, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.
It comes as the number of people testing positive for the virus in England also reached a new record high, with a total of 232,169 in the week to December 23 – the highest weekly total since NHS Test and Trace was launched in May.
Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle urged people not to mix this New Year’s Eve and to keep to the social distancing and hygiene rules in a bid to stop the spread.
She said: “The Christmas week saw a worrying rise in cases across every region of the country, particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s.
“We must not now add further fuel to the fire, as meeting in close and large groups this New Year’s Eve risks further transmission.”
Prof Montgomery said people were to blame for the spread of the virus, not the new variant.
He said: “It’s making me actually very angry now that people are laying the blame on the virus and it’s not the virus, it’s people. People are not washing their hands, they’re not keeping two-metre distance, they’re not wearing their masks.”
Prof Montgomery said he knew the current restrictions were “horrible”, but added that we can’t change course.
He said: “I’m really sorry that it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s going to be miserable but it has to be, please don’t gather in masses, don’t make this the last swan song, don’t give it a ‘well it’s all going to be lockdown so we’ll have one more night out’ because we can’t have another spread of this.
Prof Montgomery added: “It takes 10 days for someone who’s infected to hit an intensive care unit, so the bad behaviour that might have happened over Christmas we’re not going to see that until next week, and if people behave badly on New Year, we’re not going to get that hitting us until the 8th or 10th of January.
On Wednesday, millions more people were put under Tier 4 restrictions in England as the coronavirus cases rose sharply across the country.
About 78% of the population of England are now in Tier 4, alongside equivalents in the other three countries of the UK.
Scientists that even that might not be enough as the new variant is estimated to increase R by up to 0.4.
The UK recorded more than 50,000 new cases on Wednesday and Tuesday, more than double last weeks.
Prof Montgomery pleaded with people to follow the rules as the situation in hospitals was so desperate.
He said: “We’re seeing whole families coming in now, and I’m watching one parent then another parent or a parent and a child die, you know I’m watching whole families get wiped out here, and it’s got to stop”