NHS hospitals in England appear quieter than usual for this time of year even though they are treating more than 9,000 patients with coronavirus.
A leaked document claims 84 per cent of all hospital beds were occupied across the country yesterday, which is lower than the 92 per cent recorded during autumn last year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday sent Britain reeling when he announced a second lockdown and a return to his catchphrase 'stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives'.
But the 84 per cent figure, revealed by the Health Service Journal, suggests that the health service as a whole is not under as much strain as officials imply.
Bed occupancy has not averaged lower than 85 per cent in any normal three-month period for the past decade.
The only exception to this was between April and June this year, when it stood at 64 per cent because hospitals were forced to turf out thousands of non-Covid patients to make space for the epidemic.
Regional differences in the coronavirus outbreak mean some places are feeling more strain than others – one major hospital trust in Liverpool is already be treating more Covid-19 patients than it was in the spring.
Officials are making repeated comparisons to the spring situation as a shorthand for crisis but will not explain how busy hospitals actually are.
Tens of thousands of beds went unused during the peak of the first wave of Covid-19 and officials and officials say the 'available capacity' of hospitals is only around 20,000, prompting startling warnings they could run out of room by next month.
And coronavirus data for all of England now shows that the number of people in hospital with the disease dropped on Sunday for the first time in a month, falling from 9,213 to 9,077.
Daily admissions also fell on Saturday – the most recent data – from 1,345 new patients on Friday to 1,109 on October 30. Oxford University's Professor Carl Heneghan, a vocal critic of lockdown policies, today said the outbreak is 'flatlining'.
Hospital bed occupancy this year dropped to its lowest percentage for a decade when medics had to turf out thousands of inpatients to make room for a predicted surge in people with Covid-19. Now that normal care has resumed, a leaked report suggests there are still fewer than average numbers of beds in use
Even during the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in the UK, Covid-19 patients never accounted for more than 30 per cent of all hospital patients and tens of thousands of vacated beds went unused during the spring
Professor Heneghan said on BBC Radio 4 this morning: 'Right now cases are shifting in a way they weren't three weeks ago. They are starting to flatline.
'Admissions are flatlining and, in effect, deaths are starting to flatline so there will be an update, I hope, on this system tomorrow, on Wednesday, that will give us a clear understanding of where we're going.'
The number of people on ventilators in intensive care in England also fell on Sunday, from 815 to 802.
Downhearted officials and politicians have repeatedly warned the NHS is on course to become overwhelmed by the second wave of coronavirus.
Boris Johnson was reportedly told by members of SAGE, just days before he announced lockdown