Covid: Hotels could be used to house patients if hospitals are full, Hancock says

Matt Hancock said the use of hotels for Covid patients was a back-up plan. Credit: PA

Hotels could be used as a place for Covid patients if hospitals can no longer find a place for them, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said the NHS was under pressure "like it's never been before" and the government was working on stopping the health service from being overwhelmed by Covid-19.

He told ITV News the government was looking at "all options" although he added the plans for using hotels was not "currently actively exploring but you wouldn't expect me to rule it out."

He said: "I want to make sure everybody can get the treatment that they need."

Mr Hancock also said the Nightingale hospitals were an option and the London Nightingale was now receiving patients for the first time since April.

The Nightingale hospitals were a series of medical facilities set up in conference centres and large halls across the country during the first wave of the pandemic to house only Covid-19 patients if hospitals were no longer able to find space for them.

Only the London Nightingale ended up taking any patients and even then they were few in number, but the government has kept them on standby ever since.

Ambulances parked outside the ExCel centre in London, the sight of the capital's Nightingale hospital. Credit: PA

When asked about vaccinating people 24/7, he said: “We're up for that and if that will speed up the delivery."

"Because the rate-limiting step is supply most people would prefer to be vaccinated in the middle of the day as most vaccinators would rather work in the day but I don't rule that (24/7 vaccines) out."

He added: "The good news is we're managing to get it out into arms as quickly as the companies are delivering it to us."

The UK recorded its second-highest deadliest day from Covid-19 on Tuesday, with 1,243 deaths.

There have now been over 83,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the country, but separate figures from the UK's statistics agencies say predict the number could be as high as 99,000.

On Wednesday NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned it was “pretty clear” the Covid-19 infection rate was not going to go down as quickly as it did during the first wave because of the new strain.

Credit: PA

He said this meant the peak pressure on the NHS might not come until the middle of February.

The latest government figures show there are currently 35,075 patients in hospital with Covid-19 with over 4,000 admitted on Tuesday.