Cautious optimism as coronavirus measures start to impact hospital admission numbers

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has suggested the impact of social distancing measures is already starting to stabilise the spread of coronavirus.

By Geraldine Scott
Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:59 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 6:00 pm

Sir Patrick Vallance made a presentation on the statistics surrounding the virus at the daily press conference at 10 Downing Street.

And he said the number of people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus is going up “in a constant amount” - meaning measures were starting to have an effect.

Sir Patrick said: “The measures are in place, they are making a difference, they are decreasing the contact which is so important to spread the disease and we’re doing a good job at cutting that down.”

10 Downing Street of Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance answering questions from the media via a video link during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street

Looking at those who have been tested having come to hospital, he added: “What you can see is there’s been an increase in the number of cases since the middle of March through to today. We expect that measures that are in place that cause that social distancing, the stay at home message will be reducing the number of cases of transmission in the community and decreasing the number of cases overall.”

Sir Patrick said: “We would expect this, in turn, to decrease the number of people needing admission to hospital.”

He added: “This graph shows the total number of people admitted to hospital since the middle of March which is now 8,000 people with coronavirus – that’s gone up pretty much the same amount each day for the last few days.

“That shows that it’s going up not in an increasing amount but in a constant amount which may suggest that we’re already beginning to see some effect through.”

Sir Patrick said the NHS seeing an additional 1,000 patients a day with coronavirus-related admissions was “not an acceleration” and that the health service was coping.

He said: “To answer the question about numbers, 6,000 to 9,000, roughly a 1,000-a-day going up in that measure – that’s not an acceleration. That’s quite important.

“It tells you that actually this is a bit more stable than it has been.

“I do expect that number to continue. I expect people coming every day to be about that, it may go up a little bit.

“And in two or three weeks you would expect that to stabilise and to start to go down a bit.

“That is not a rapid acceleration number. It is an important number, it is a difficult number to deal with and it is a number that NHS staff are clearly coping with in terms of what they are doing at the moment.”

But he said it was too early to say when Government measures to tackle coronavirus can be eased.

He said: “It’s important that we do this now to get the numbers below NHS ICU (intensive care unit) capacity, that is the absolute priority at the moment.

“Once that is achieved, once we know that we’ve got this curve below the ICU capacity and stable, then of course it’s time to start asking the question which is being asked across the world at the moment – how do we release those measures and manage this going forward?

“So I think it’s premature to put a time, an absolute time on how long this goes on for. We need to do phase one and then we need to think about how we release these in the right way and at the right approach in order to be able to allow the curve to stay below the ICU capacity.”