Covid restrictions could be reintroduced if the rising number of cases impacts the NHS backlog, a minister admitted today.
The number of Brits hospitalised in England has reached its highest level in almost three months, with 13,336 patients in hospital as of 8am on July 11.
At least 2.7 million people in private households are thought to have had Covid-19 over the last week, according to official statistics.
The current wave is being driven by the variants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which are now the dominant strains of Covid-19 in the UK and are more transmissible than the BA.2 variant that caused infection levels to reach an all-time high earlier in the year.
Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath questioned what the Government will do in the face of rising cases, and Labour health spokeswoman Baroness Merron opened the debate noting a “stark rise” in infections and questioning if mandatory face masks in hospitals could return.
“We might be through the worst of Covid but it evidently hasn’t gone away,” Lady Merron added.
Lord Kamall replied: “We are always ready to stand up measures should the case rates rise so much that our health system was under pressure, but also what we have managed to do is break the link between infections and hospitalisations, and hospitalisations and death.
“If that gets out of control then of course we will stand up the measures that we have previously.”
He even suggested free testing could be reintroduced if needed.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick asked: “Why does the Government not reintroduce free Covid tests for everyone in England and financial support for those who do the right thing and self-isolate, especially in the face of the cost-of-living crisis?”
Health experts have warned the numbers are likely to carry on rising throughout July, driven by a “substantial amount” of waning immunity among older people.
The jump in patients testing positive for the virus is due to the spread of the sub-variants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which are now the dominant strains in the country.
Infections are currently at their highest since April, but are still some way below the record levels at the peak of the BA.2 wave in March.
Around six in 10 patients in England who test positive for Covid-19 are being treated primarily for something else rather than the virus, but still need to be kept isolated from other patients, putting extra pressure on hospital staff and resources.
It comes after Sage expert Susan Michie slammed the Government’s Covid policy as “shut your eyes and let it rip”.
Ms Michie told the Sunday Mirror urgent action is needed to stop huge numbers of unnecessary deaths and hospitalisations as new, highly infectious variants spread across the country.