Some hospitals are now treating more coronavirus patients than they were during the first wave in spring with admissions still rising an investigation has found.
NHS data leaked to the Independent and Health Service Journal (HSJ) showed there were almost 6,100 patients with the virus in hospitals across England on Thursday, with 4,670 receiving oxygen and 653 in critical care.
A total of 563 patients were on ventilators to help them to breathe.
The joint investigation also found that parts of the North West region now have more coronavirus patients in hospital beds than they did in spring.
It showed that more than a quarter of beds (408) at the Liverpool University Hospitals Trust were occupied by Covid-19 patients, having never been above 400 in spring.
Across Lancashire and South Cumbria, 15% of hospital beds (544) were occupied by Covid-19 patients, about 20 more than during the April peak, the investigation found.
There were 685 patients in Manchester hospitals on Thursday, 11% of the total beds available, with another 100 patients suspected of having the virus, it found.
It also found that there were 62 patients being ventilated, with 522 needing oxygen.
The region’s Nightingale hospital is to be the first to reopen, it was announced on Thursday.
Covid tiers: - What are the differences between each alert level?
Medium (Tier 1) - Rule of six applies indoors and outdoors. Pubs and restaurants close at 10pm.
High (Tier 2) - Households must not mix indoors in any setting including pubs and restaurants. Rule of six applies outdoors
Very high (Tier 3) - Households must not mix indoors, or in private gardens. Rule of six applies in outdoor spaces including parks. Pubs and bars which don't serve meals will be closed
Almost half of Liverpool’s mechanical ventilation beds – 29 out of 62 – are occupied by confirmed Covid patients and a third of those across the North West (178 of 556).
Meanwhile, in Birmingham there were 171 coronavirus patients with 26 in critical care, 18 patients on a ventilator and more than 150 patients on oxygen.
Across the Midlands as a whole there were 1,161 patients with coronavirus on wards, 6% of the total number of beds available, and 142 in critical care.
Hospitals in Nottingham have postponed some of their non-urgent surgeries due to a "dramatic increase" in Covid-19 admissions.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s chief executive Tracy Taylor said the city’s Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) has exceeded 200 patients with Covid over the past few days – with numbers "increasing by nearly another full ward of people" every day.
The investigation found that the number of “unoccupied” hospital beds was much lower now than in the spring, when the NHS discharged thousands of patients in anticipation of a spike in admissions.
In the North West, up to 5,500 acute beds were reported as “unoccupied” in the spring, whereas the figure now is about 2,500, it found.
An NHS England spokeswoman told HSJ: ”Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are rising and so it is vital everyone does what they can to control the virus, particularly by following government guidelines.
“Social distancing is the first line of defence, followed by the test and trace programme, but if infection still then spreads, the NHS has no choice but to activate local and regional escalation plans.”