Boris Johnson has told Covid deniers to 'grow up' and NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens slammed their 'lies' about hospitals being empty – saying the 'nonsense' could kill people and 'nothing is more demoralising' to medics.
Speaking together at a Downing Street press conference, the PM and Sir Simon Stevens said downplaying the seriousness of Covid was an 'insult' to frontline workers.
Mr Johnson said: 'The kind of people who stand outside of hospitals and say 'Covid is a hoax' and this kind of stuff, I do think they need to grow up.
'You heard eloquently from the head of NHS England the pressure the NHS is under, and we've all got to do our bit responsibly to protect it.
'For the vast majority of the country, that means making sure we stay at home and protect the NHS. For people who are getting invited to get a vaccine; go and get the jab.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Asked what he would say to people who do not believe Covid is real or think warnings about how busy the NHS is are not true, Sir Simon added: 'Let's just be completely straightforward about it – when people say that it is a lie.
'If you sneak into a hospital in an empty corridor at nine o'clock at night and film that particular corridor, and then stick it up on social media and say ''this proves the hospitals are empty, the whole thing is a hoax'', you are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people, but it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances.'
He added: 'There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue.'
It comes as the PM announced he is bringing in the Army to bolster the UK's vaccination drive and claimed the NHS will be able to give 200,000 jabs every day by next Friday as part of ambitious lockdown-ending plans.
With the roll-out of vaccines the only light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister today reassured the public there are enough doses available to get all the top priority groups immunised by mid-February.
He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that is hoped will be speed up the process.
Sir Simon praised the UK for its 'strong start' but both he and the PM admitted there will be 'difficulties' and 'bumps along the road' as they scramble to immunise millions of people per week.
The UK is aiming to vaccinate 13million people by mid-February, which could mean 3million a week. Only 1.5million have had a dose meaning there are another 11.5million to dish out in 39 days, or around 300,000 a day.
And for people who get sick before they can get a vaccine, Mr Johnson announced two routine arthritis drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – would be used to treat critically-ill patients after scientists found they can cut the risk of death by up to a quarter.
On another day of coronavirus chaos:Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer Matt Hancock insisted vaccines will mean this is the last national lockdown as the Health Secretary tried to strike an optimistic tone and set out four criteria for lifting restrictions; Drivers were turned away from countryside Beauty spots in Derbyshire while police grilled parents with a pushchair in Birmingham city centre as forces across the country launch an extreme Covid crackdown; Elderly Britons are refusing the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine because they'd rather 'wait for the English one' and failing to turn up for appointments as ministers scramble to turbo-charge the jab's roll out; Care home bosses said it would be a 'grave mistake' to use their empty beds as overflow for packed hospitals as the number of people being admitted with Covid-19 surges; The number of NHS staff off sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus has almost quadrupled since September with almost one in 10 staff now off sick, leaked figures reveal.
NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens (left) and Boris Johnson (right) today rounded on Covid deniers and said it was 'lies' and 'nonsense' to claim that hospitals aren't busy with coronavirus patients
There are now more than 30,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 across the UK, more than there has ever been, and more than half a million people have been diagnosed with the virus in the past 10 days.
Darent Valley Hospital in Kent today upgraded its alert level and said it might have to stop offering critical care because it is now 'overwhelmed'.
Kent has been at the heart of the second wave's resurgence since a new, super-infectious variant of the virus emerged in the county and ripped through the South East.
London's hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 in less than two weeks even in a 'best' case scenario, an official briefing reportedly warns.
Medical director at NHS London Vin Diwakar provided the worrying analysis to medical directors of the capital's hospital trusts over a Zoom call this afternoon.
Even if coronavirus patients grew at the lowest likely rate and capacity is increased - including opening the Nightingale - the NHS would still be short 2,000 general, acute and ICU beds by January 19, the HSJ reports.
Three scenarios are laid out in the report - 'best', 'average' and 'worse'. These account for the impact of four per cent daily growth, five per cent growth and six per cent growth respectively.
Growth for beds on January 5 was 3.5 per cent, with the rate at 4.8 per cent for ICU beds, the report claimed.
It may be the canary in the coal mine as other hospitals say they are approaching crisis levels with patient numbers surging across the country after infections exploded over the Christmas period.
In London, NHS bosses have warned hospitals could be packed with coronavirus patients in less than two weeks even in a best case scenario, leading to health bosses scrambling to find extra capacity in care home and mothballed Nightingales.
It comes just a week after a crowd of people not wearing masks were filmed chanting 'Covid is a hoax' outside St Thomas' Hospital in London on New Year's Eve while the city was in a Tier 4 lockdown.
At the time Dr Matthew Lee, a medic who filmed them and posted it online after his shift at the hospital, said the behaviour was 'disgusting'.
Dr Lee said: 'Hundreds of maskless, drunk people in huge groups shouting 'Covid is a hoax', literally outside the building where hundreds are sick and dying.
'Why do people still not realise the seriousness of this pandemic?'
He later added: 'I'm disgusted but mostly heartbroken. I wish people could see the amount of Covid-19 and deaths in hospitals, and the sacrifices that healthcare workers make.
'This week alone has been so tough. Their ignorance is hurting others. I really wish people would keep themselves safe.'
If further proof was needed of the strains being put on the NHS, a hospital in Kent today warned it might have to stop accepting critical care patients.
The Darent Valley Hospital, near Dartford, declared a 'CRITCON level four' alert on advice from NHS England which means it is 'overwhelmed', the Health Service Journal reported.
The alert level is described as rare and its official description says it means 'Resources overwhelmed. Possibility of triage by resource (non-clinical refusal or withdrawal of critical care due to resource limitation)'.
Resource limitation means the hospital does not have enough staff, beds or other equipment to deal with the demands of its patients.
It could mean the hospital has to ship critically ill patients out to other hospitals in the region.
Darent Valley Hospital in Kent today upgraded its alert level and said it might have to stop offering critical care because it is now 'overwhelmed'
NHS figures show the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had 268 patients with Covid-19 on January 5, the latest data.
Leaked reports published by the HSJ showed that 84 per cent of its inpatients were people with coronavirus and none of its 20 intensive care beds have been free all week.
Mr Johnson's mammoth jab pledge — which critics fear he won't be able to deliver because it is over-ambitious — came moments after Britain recorded 1,162 Covid deaths in the second worst day of the pandemic. Department of Health data shows only April 21 had a worse death toll than today, when 1,224 victims were declared.
Experts fear the daily number of Covid deaths may rise further, because of the spiralling number of infections in the community. But in a slight glimmer of hope, cases dropped compared to last week as health bosses posted 52,618 infections — down 6 per cent from the same time last week.
Matt Hancock today insisted vaccines will mean this is the last national lockdown as he set out four criteria for lifting restrictions.
The Health Secretary tried to strike an optimistic tone as he faced questions over the delay in bringing in the brutal curbs to control the mutant Covid strain as he gave evidence to MPs this afternoon.
Asked if this would be the 'last of the lockdowns' due to the availability of vaccines, he said: 'I do, yes.'
And he also laid out the elements that will need to fall into place to ease the brutal curbs - that cases and deaths are falling, vaccines are working, and there is no 'major' new variant causing trouble.
Health committee chair Jeremy Hunt challenged Mr Hancock that by the end of last week it was known that the number of hospital patients was above the first wave, while SAGE had advised that the R number would not stay below one while schools were open.
But the Cabinet minister insisted the true picture only emerged over the weekend and the government 'acted fast' by announcing the measures on Monday.
He blamed a 'fall off' in the number of people being tested over Christmas saying it meant the scale of the problem was 'less clear'.
Giving a glimpse of the route out of the crisis, he told the MPs: 'We've set out the conditions that we'll look at for the relaxation of the restrictions.
In tonight's Downing St press conference Brigadier Phil Prosser, the army officer and Iraq veteran put in charge of speeding up the UK's sluggish vaccination programme, insisted the military would use 'battlefield techniques' to ramp up the roll-out, adding: 'My team are used to complexity and building supply chains at speed in the most arduous and challenging conditions.'
Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise the plans to hit the PM's lofty target of vaccinating all over-70s, care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages to end the endless cycle of lockdowns by mid-February.
The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby. And as many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London's ExCeL centre.
So far the UK's vaccination scheme has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled its scale-up.
Hugely ambitious claims about the Government's vaccination programme will cause worry from some corners after it failed to live up to promises on its swab-testing scheme.
Matt Hancock had promised the programme would hit 100,000 tests per day by the start of May – and claimed at the time that it did – but it later emerged the Department of Health had posted out tens of thousands and counted them, and that the number never breached six figures until three weeks later on May 21.
And Boris Johnson promised in the summer that NHS Test and Trace would scale up to get everyone who visited a major testing centre their results within 24 hours, but this target has never been achieved.
Missing the mark on vaccinating could have far worse consequences, with Britain stuck in lockdown until the most vulnerable people can all be immunised.
Today's figures mark the tenth day in a row Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new infections, as the virus continues to spread across the country.
It takes at least two weeks for someone who has been infected with the virus to develop symptoms bad enough to become hospitalised, and eventually sadly die from the disease, meaning the deaths are expected to rise at a later date.
People in their 20s now have the highest rate of coronavirus infection in England, with 0.8 per cent of the population infected.
Public Health England figures show young adults – between the ages of 20 and 39 and, to a lesser extent, people in their 40s – are the worst affected groups but case numbers are surging in every age group.
In the week ending January 3 there were 843 positive tests per 100,000 people among 20 to 29-year-olds, compared to 813 per 100,000 in people in their 30s.
The figures rose 40 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, with the 20s age group overtaking the 30s as the one with the highest rate. The rate for people in their 40s was 738 per 100,000, the third worst and up a quarter in a week.
Some of the lowest rates of infection were in children, ranging from 194 in under-fives to 435 in teenagers, but they were still rising despite school holidays.
Only 1.5million have received at least one dose so far — meaning there are another 11.5million to dish out in 39 days, or around 300,000 a day
In tonight's Downing St press conference Brigadier Phil Prosser (right), the army officer and Iraq veteran put in charge of speeding up the UK's sluggish vaccination programme, insisted the military would use 'battlefield techniques' to ramp up the roll-out. Pictured with Sir Simon Stevens, boss of NHS England (left), and the PM
Boris Johnson tonight hailed two 'life-saving' arthritis drugs after a major British trial revealed they cut the risk of death in critically-ill Covid patients by nearly a quarter.
The PM — who stumbled several times as he tried to pronounce them — said the anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab would be made available through the NHS with immediate effect, 'potentially saving thousands of lives'.
He told tonight's Downing Street press conference: 'I'm pleased to tell you today British scientific research has now contributed to the creation of more new life-saving treatments that have just passed rigorous clinical trials.
'In particular, tocilizumab and sarilumab, and they'll shortly be on everybody's lips, which have been found to reduce the risk of death for critical ill patients by almost a quarter an they've cut time spent in intensive care by as much as 10 days.
'These life-saving drugs will be available through the NHS with immediate effect, potentially saving thousands of lives.'
In one of the biggest medical breakthroughs of the pandemic, scientists found the drugs can boost the survival odds for patients already taking dexamethasone, a steroid which British scientists discovered could reduce death in the sickest Covid patients over summer.
Matt Hancock also described the discovery as 'yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic'.
The results come from the REMAP-CAP trial which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid in 15 countries. The drugs, marketed under the brand name Actemra and Kevzara, are administered via an intravenous drip for an hour.
The biggest increase was seen among people in their 60s, where the positive test rate rose 47 per cent from 308 per 100,000 people to 454.
Care homes say it would be a 'grave mistake' to use their empty beds as overflow for packed hospitals as the number of people being admitted with Covid-19 surges.
The NHS is making plans to commandeer spare care beds across the country to help release pressure on hospitals as their wards fill up with coronavirus patients.
More than 30,000 people are