Coronavirus: NHS will remain 'within capacity' if social distancing works, says health boss

·3-min read
People follow social distancing guidelines as they queue outside a Tesco Express in Glasgow as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Hospital admissions could plateau in two to three weeks if people follow social distancing rules such as leaving a 2m space in queues, a top health official has said. (PA)

The NHS will remain “within capacity” when it comes to dealing with coronavirus if social distancing works, a top health official has said.

Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England (PHE), predicted that hospital admissions could plateau in two to three weeks time if social distancing works.

Asked if the UK was on course for 1,000 deaths a day by the weekend, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My expectation – and I think the expectation of those looking at this most closely – is that we will continue to see an increase in the numbers of people being infected and admitted to hospital over the next two to three weeks, but we should hit a plateau if all the social distancing measures are working in about two to three weeks’ time.”

Embargoed to 0001 Thursday March 05 File photo dated 03/10/14 of a nurse on a ward at a hospital. The NHS "does not have the nurses it needs", according to a new report.
Professor Paul Cosford said the NHS would remain 'within capacity' if social distancing works. (PA)

Also appearing on Good Morning Britain, he said the NHS looked set to remain “within capacity” if social distancing works.

He told the programme: “If we get to a position where demand outstrips supply, and all the figures that I have seen so far look as if we won’t get to that position, certainly it looks as if we should be able to stay within capacity if the social distancing works and that’s why the social distancing is so important.”

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Prof Cosford said testing is “critically important” but social distancing is too.

He told Good Morning Britain: “Social distancing is absolutely the way that we will reduce the spread of this infection and ultimately will get on top of it”, and said measures will need to stay in place until the spread of coronavirus becomes “minimal”.

Police have powers to help fight coronavirus by enforcing social distancing, including the power to close non-essential businesses and to break up gatherings.

A pub in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, was closed down after reports it was holding lock-ins for regulars despite laws to combat coronavirus.

But in some areas officers have come under fire from those who say they are over-stepping their powers.

Some forces have introduced methods that people can report those who they believe aren’t following social distancing guidelines.

Humberside Police and Avon & Somerset Police are among forces who have introduced a form on their websites to report people not following guidelines.

Police patrol the streets near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police have certain powers to help implement social distancing but have been criticised in some areas for going too far. (PA)

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These continue to be unprecedented and uncertain times, but one thing remains constant – saving lives and protecting the public is the number one priority for police officers.

“The practicalities of policing this lockdown will be challenging, but these new powers will assist us in keeping the public safe.”

He added: “We ask that the public heeds the advice and people remain at home unless absolutely necessary. This will allow police officers to concentrate on keeping the streets clear and supporting the NHS during this period.”

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