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England's crisis can't be blamed on the new Covid variant alone | Gabriel Scally

Rather than getting ahead of the virus, the UK government has continually searched for a magic bullet that doesn’t exist

England is now paying the price for the government’s failure to get ahead of the virus before Christmas. The prime minister has described the current situation in hospitals as “parlous and perilous”, as the number of hospital patients with Covid-19 in England passed 30,000 for the first time. On Friday, the UK reported 1,325 deaths from Covid in a 24-hour period – the highest figure recorded since the start of the pandemic. Professor Chris Whitty has since warned that the NHS faces its worst month of the pandemic yet.

The government’s mixed messaging about Christmas likely had an effect on the number of cases we’re now seeing. Although plans to allow five days of mixing over the festive period were cut short at the last minute, people under tier 2 and 3 restrictions were still permitted to mix on 25 December. Figures bear this out: the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has climbed steeply since the second lockdown was lifted in early December and accelerated upwards after Christmas, indicating that social mixing played a part in the current crisis.

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