Responding to the latest test and trace figures
, Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures show just how rapidly the virus has been spreading, and how tightly it continues to grip the country. This is even before we can quantify the full effects of additional household mixing over Christmas, which will only be known in the next week or two. As infections rise, unfortunately so will hospital admissions.
“It is of real concern that only one third of results for in-person COVID tests were received within 24 hours. It’s absolutely vital that people know as quickly as possible whether they have the virus, so that they can self-isolate.
“It is also worrying that the true figure for close contacts reached and asked to self-isolate is masked by the fact that under-18s and other adults in the same household are no longer included. If we do not have the full picture, we cannot know how effective the system is.
“The NHS is very close to breaking point. Protecting it means reducing the number of people with COVID-19 who need hospital beds and other forms of healthcare so that the NHS can not only meet COVID demand, but also protect our friends, family, colleagues and loved ones who need the everyday care and treatment the NHS provides. Until the vaccine has been more widely rolled out, the most effective way to do this is to keep social contact to the absolute minimum.”