More people have died in hospital having contracted coronavirus in the past 24 hours than ever in a single day during the pandemic.
Hospitals in the South West have recorded their highest ever daily Covid-19 death rate with 49 fatalities announced, eclipsing the previous record of 46 set in April last year.
Hospitals in the West Country are under more pressure than ever before with more patients being treated since the 21 December than at any point during the first wave.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has warned coronavirus is “spreading out of control” and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty reiterated the concern.
He said: “The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS.
“This is a very serious moment for the country and for the National Health Service.”
Swindon’s Great Western Hospital has recorded a 50 per cent rise in coronavirus patients in the past week, resulting in one of its operating theatres being converted into a temporary intensive care unit.
Elsewhere, the number of coronavirus cases in Cornwall have dramatically increased with rates of infection in Newquay now at levels comparable to the hardest-hit boroughs in London.
Almost half of today’s increase in deaths - 21 - have been recorded in Bristol. The news comes just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the city’s vaccination hub at Ashton Gate to oversee the rollout of the vaccine.
With an overwhelmed NHS potentially on the horizon, the Prime Minister commented on the possibility of a round-the-clock vaccination service.
He told MPs: "We will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can.
“At the moment the limit is on supply, we have a huge network - 233 hospitals, 1,000 GP surgeries, 200 pharmacies and 50 mass vaccination centres and they are going ... exceptionally fast."