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Covid patient numbers rise in Kent but Sage predicts NHS will cope this Christmas

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The number of hospital patients with Covid in Kent has risen 43% in a week - but government advisers predict the NHS will not be overwhelmed this Christmas.

Latest figures show there are 117 people with the virus in the county's hospitals, up from 75 the week before.

The number of Covid patients in Kent is up 43% in a week - but remains well below that at the peak of the second wave. Stock pic
The number of Covid patients in Kent is up 43% in a week - but remains well below that at the peak of the second wave. Stock pic

At the same time, Covid rates are steadily rising across the county, and remain high nationally, as calls mount for the government to implement its Plan B restrictions.

But the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is confident we will not see a return of last winter's sky-high patient numbers, which at one point saw 1,314 people with Covid in Kent's hospitals.

How are our hospitals coping?

As of Tuesday, there were 117 patients with Covid in hospitals run by the county's four main trusts.

Two of them - Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells and East Kent - saw the number of people they're treating with the virus at least double.

But our hospitals are a lot quieter than at the peak of the pandemic, when there were 1,314 Covid patients on January 5.

Of some concern, though, will be the fact that on October 19 last year Kent's hospitals were treating just 48 patients with Covid - 69 fewer than the same day this year.

Are all Covid patients actually being treated for the virus?

Regional figures are not routinely published, so all we know is that 117 people in Kent's hospitals have tested positive for the virus.

Details on why they were admission, or what they are being treated for, are not released on a trust-by-trust basis.

However, figures for the south east for the month up to October 6 showed 74% of Covid patients were being "primarily treated" for the virus.

Roughly speaking, if applied in Kent, this would mean about 87 people in Kent are being treated in hospital FOR Covid.

Ten people with the virus are currently on a ventilator.

Is Kent's infection rate high?

More than 1,000 cases a day are being recorded in the county for only the second time since the second wave in December and January.

Kent's rate now stands at 393 cases per 100,000 people - compared to an average in England of 483.

But while the national rise shows signs of slowing somewhat, Kent's rate has jumped 28% in a week, suggesting the county is a little behind the curve.

Some comfort will be taken from the fact that when the Kent rate hit 393 last December there were 721 Covid patients in our hospitals. Now there are 117, largely due to the success of the vaccine roll-out.

Four Kent districts - all in the west of the county - have a higher infection rate than the national average, with Sevenoaks recording the highest, at almost 600.

The lowest is in Folkestone and Hythe, at 234.7.

Some neighbourhoods are bucking the trend and still seeing infection rates fall.

Are we heading for a winter crisis?

The jury appears to still be out, and given the unpredictability of the pandemic so far any forecast has to be considered cautiously.

On Friday, Britain's daily Covid hospital admissions breached 1,000 for the first time in six weeks.

But Sage scientists insist is is "highly unlikely" the NHS will be overwhelmed by the virus this winter, even without restrictions being reimposed.

It believes the high vaccine take-up, and resulting immunity, coupled with natural protection will keep patient numbers below those seen last year.

However, one government scientific adviser says he is "very fearful" there will be another '"lockdown Christmas".

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) and SAGE subgroup CO-CIN, says case numbers and death rates are currently "unacceptable".

But Boris Johnson yesterday insisted there is "absolutely nothing to indicate" there will be another lockdown this winter.

The Prime Minister said a national shutdown is not "on the cards" as he was grilled about rising coronavirus case numbers.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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