The county said it had seen a 60% ‘concerning’ rise in Covid cases among the over-60s (Picture: Getty)
Buckinghamshire was forced to declare a ‘major incident’ amid fears that surging numbers of Covid patients could cause the NHS to collapse under the pressure.
Non-urgent surgery and outpatient appointments will now be delayed, but serious operations, including for cancer, will go ahead, said health chiefs.
Council leader Martin Tett said a 60% rise in the over-60s was putting health services under ‘very severe pressure’ and put the hike down to the highly transmissible mutant strain of Covid-19.
He said at the rate cases are increasing in the area, they could see figures jump to 800 per 100,000 people by next week. In the week to December 24 he said the number stood at 514.
Just hours before Buckinghamshire’s announcement, Essex also declared a major incident due to a ‘significant growing demand’ on hospitals.
Experts warned the number of patients in the county receiving treatment for coronavirus had now passed first wave levels.
An ambulance outside an entrance to Southend University hospital in Essex, as hospitals in the area declared a major incident on Wednesday (Picture: PA)
It came as the UK yesterday recorded 50,000 new Covid-19 cases – the highest daily number since the pandemic began, and 981 deaths which was the highest increase since April 24.
He said in a statement: ‘Our rate in the over-60 years population is now putting our health and social care services under very severe pressure – the rates in this age group have gone up by over 60% and we think this will continue at least for the next two weeks.’
Mr Tett added that while the UK medicine body’s approval of Oxford/Astra-Zeneca’s vaccine was ‘excellent news’ officials are still tasked with dealing with the ‘deteriorating situation we face immediately across the county’.
‘We believe that this rapid increase is due to the spread of the new, more transmissible Covid variant across much of the South East, particularly prior to the introduction of the Tier 4 regulations,’ he added.
In Buckinghamshire, only Milton Keynes’ primary schools will remain closed after the education secretary announced pupils in Covid-19 hotspots will not return to the classroom as planned next week.
Buckinghamshire has seen a surge in Covid hospital admissions (Picture: Getty)
The county’s announcement came after local authorities in Essex sent a plea for military help to increase hospital capacity.
Health bosses raised serious concerns over critical care and bed capacity, staff sickness and the ability to discharge patients quickly into safe environments.
Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin also requested armed forces assistance for Essex in the Commons on Wednesday, including for vaccine deployment and testing in schools.
Anthony McKeever, executive lead for Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, said: ‘We are taking every action possible within the NHS and across the wider health and social care partnerships in Essex to limit the impact on the NHS and the wider health system.
‘This involves using critical care capacity elsewhere in Essex and the Eastern region and identifying additional locations and capacity to assist with the discharging of patients to reduce pressure on hospitals.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said pressures in Essex were ‘very significant’ and he would ‘look favourably on the county’s request for military assistance’ – working with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
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