Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that the government would not rule out moving hospital patients into hotels in order to free up beds for people suffering from the CCP virus.
Asked if hotels would be used in this way Hancock told ITV News that though it was not something the government was “actively exploring.” It was nonetheless among the possibilities being considered to tackle the burgeoning shortage of National Health Service (NHS) beds amid the pandemic.
“You wouldn’t expect me to rule it out because I want to make sure that everybody can get the treatment that they need,” he said.
However, he added that “All decisions like this in terms of where somebody gets treatment is always made on a basis of what’s best for the individual, clinical need.”
He also said the NHS Nightingale field hospitals set up in the first wave of the pandemic—but which were little used—were now taking patients.
Hancock’s comments come less than a week after the London Nightingale hospital was put on standby following leaked projections suggesting that, even if the number of CCP virus patients increased at the lowest likely rate, the capital’s hospitals would become overwhelmed and short of nearly 2,000 acute and intensive beds by Jan. 19.
Many Conservative MP’s, meanwhile, have been pressuring the government to ease up on the UK’s third national lockdown restrictions to stem the spread of the virus that have been in place since Jan 5.
“We’ll keep the restrictions in place not a moment longer than they’re necessary, but we will keep them in place as long as they are necessary,” he said.
“I haven’t put a timescale on it,” he added.
‘Route Back to Freedom’
However, MP Mark Harper chair of the COVID Recovery Group of Conservative backbenchers has reportedly called for “a route back to freedom” and pressured the government to review restrictions on March 8.
That’s the date by when the 15 million people in the four top vulnerable groups will have likely gained immunity if they, as the government plan, have received a jab by Feb. 15.
“At that point—once all the key groups have become immune to COVID—what possible reason could there be for keeping severe restrictions in place a second longer?” Harper has asked.
When reminded that his conservative colleagues had posited the March 8 timescale for restrictions to start to be lifted, Hancock said “Well great, but I’m the health secretary.”
Even before the pandemic started critical care bed numbers in England’s NHS had been increasing steadily over recent years due to things like an aging population, more transplants, and increases in medical technology requiring more complicated and specialized medical procedures.
Official statistics however are not currently publicly available on the number of such beds because, amid the pandemic, the NHS has paused the collection and publication of figures for critical care beds, including those in existing NHS hospitals, in its new Nightingale hospitals, and any capacity it has bought from the private sector.
Over two million people in the UK have thus far received an initial jab of a vaccine against the government’s target of 15 million having received their first dose by Feb. 15.
Nearly 430,000 people have so far received their second dose.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.