Coronavirus latest news: Ending lockdown in February would be a ‘disaster’, Sage scientist warns

UK hospitals have been relatively empty compared to Europe – so why is the NHS struggling?

Our stiff upper lip could be to blame for our excess mortality – the second-worst in Europe, writes Harry de Quetteville.

As politicians and clinicians alike proclaim we are in the hardest haul of the pandemic, and tearful tales from intensive care wards are the stuff of every news broadcast, is the NHS on the brink of collapse? Is the risk of running out of intensive care beds, as Boris Johnson warned this week, “very substantial”?

Clearly, the pressure caused by the new strain, B-117, is great. Across the country, Tier 4 restrictions, which kept the old version of the virus under control, saw a tenfold increase in variant cases every three weeks.

That explains the abrupt halt in the decline of UK cases after October and November’s second peak. In other comparable countries such as France and Italy, 2020 shows two clear, smooth arcs of hospital admissions – spring and autumn, up and down.

Not here. Here the autumn downturn was rudely interrupted then radically reversed. On December 2, three weeks after the November 11 peak of 1,711, daily admissions were down to 1,262. But the next day they started climbing again, up to 1,337. A month later there were 3,351 daily Covid-19 admissions.

You can read his full analysis here.