Hospitals in Birmingham are on high alert following a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
At present 68 people are receiving treatment for the deadly bug in the city.
Seven of those at the Queen Elizabeth and Heartlands hospitals who have the virus are currently fighting for their lives in intensive care, Birmingham Mail reported.
A further 32 are ‘actively infectious’, meaning they have tested positive in the past fortnight.
Dr David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham, said he expects the number to double week on week in the city from now on.
© BIRMINGHAM MAIL Chief Executive of the Q.E. hospital, David Rosser
The medical chief called for local restrictions to stop the rate of infection.
“If I had a vote (about local measures) I would say to do something now,” he said.
But he added: “Even if we brought in some sort of social measures today to stop the spread completely we would still expect to see cases double in a week – those people have already got it, they just don’t know it yet.
“We have seen hospital admissions double in a week and I expect it to double in the next week again – it’s an exponential curve. We are in the foothills of that curve.”
© BPM Media The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is seeing coronavirus patient numbers rise
Dr Rosser criticised those claiming the virus has ‘weakened’ or mutated into a less dangerous version, rubbishing the assertion.
Dr Mark Garvey, consultant microbiologist and deputy chief of infection prevention and control for the trust, has studied the virus closely for six months through more than 3,000 patients.
He described such claims as “a myth”.
“The coronavirus in our patients today is exactly the same now as it was in April, it is exactly the same strain,” he said.
© Graham Young / BirminghamLive Dr Mark Garvey rubbished the idea that the virus is less deadly now than earlier in the year
“When you look at the mutational frequency of the virus there are very, very small changes – it is essentially exactly the same as it was.”
He said said that the lower case and death numbers recorded in teh UK over the summer had been a result of social distancing efforts.
“But the virus itself is still as harmful,” he added.
“At our peak we had 708 in-patients at one time, of which about one in six were critically ill.
“We are seeing the same proportion now.”
In Birmingham hospitals cases have shot up from around 10 two weeks ago to 23 last week.
That figure jumped up to 68 this week, of which 32 are actively infected.
© AFP via Getty Images Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell are now in the ‘danger zone’
The rapid climb in coronavirus infections in the city, and neighbouring Solihull and Sandwell, reached a new high yesterday.
All three areas are now firmly in the danger zone.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock chaired a national gold command meeting yesterday to decide whether Birmingham would have new lockdown measures enforced.
Dr Rosser, while not invited to contribute to the lockdown talks, called for further restrictions.
He said: “I am not advocating full lockdown, as I recognise the negative side of that (on the economy, mental health and so on) but the status quo will get us into trouble inevitably if we don’t do something.”
© Graham Young / BirminghamLive Additional lockdown measures are being considered for the city
Jonathan Brotherton, UHB’s chief operating officer, has been laying the foundations for the next coronavirus wave.
He said: “The preparations we have now are largely informed by what we learned through the first wave.
“That is going to stand us in good stead moving forward.
“We converted Solihull hospital into a covid-secure site and reconfigured our other hospitals – Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands and Good Hope – to ensure we can maintain essential surgery and tertiary services through this new surge.
“We didn’t have that level of preparation last time.
© Adam Hughes / SWNS Cases have risen in recent weeks in the West Midlands
“We are also using private hospital capacity that was commissioned by the NHS at the start of the pandemic to support services, and will continue to make full use of that across Birmingham and Solihull.
“We are as well prepared as we could be (for coronavirus) and for managing other services alongside,” added Mr Brotherton.
“That does not say we might have to make some compromises around other services because of the likely number of Covid patients we expect to see over the next few weeks.
“It will have a knock-on impact.”