Responding to the latest REACT-1, urgent and emergency care, and mortality figures for the NHS in England, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: "This latest round of data releases brings us some welcome signs that COVID-19 cases are moving in a positive direction, with the REACT-1 figures showing a decrease of some 60 per cent in prevalence of COVID-19 infections month-on-month. The test and trace figures also show a reduction in new infections, although of course, part of this may relate to less testing over the Easter holiday.
"It is especially good to see that the likelihood of COVID-19 infections leading to death seems to be reducing, following the rollout of the vaccination programme. The ONS mortality figures also offer a degree of hope, as they show a third consecutive week of deaths that are below the five-year average, as well as another fall in COVID deaths, showing just how far we've come since the peaks over the past year.
"However, we cannot forget the huge challenges the NHS has faced as a result of the pandemic, and indeed, continues to face. Our teams know all too well that what goes down can easily go back up. That’s important, as the latest urgent and emergency care figures showed only a small decrease in the number of critical care beds occupied, alongside an uptick in the number of patients arriving by ambulance. This tells us that while COVID-19 cases may be falling, the demand for NHS care is significant.
"All this serves to remind us that we must continue to be cautious, to make sure we keep social contact to a minimum, wear face coverings, and practice rigorous hand hygiene. The vaccination programme has helped, and while it is an extremely strong tool, it must be used alongside other precautions, as until everyone is protected, no one is protected."