English health official warns pandemic entering worst weeks

England’s chief medical officer has warned that the coming weeks will be the worst of the pandemic for the National Health Service, as he appealed to the public to more closely follow the guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the disease

LONDON — England’s chief medical officer warned Monday that the coming weeks would be the worst of the pandemic for the National Health Service as he appealed to the public to strictly follow guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the disease.

Chris Whitty said political leaders are considering tightening the rules as a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 aggravates an already difficult situation. Hospitals are overflowing and exhausted medical staff are under strain.

“I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,’’ Whitty told the BBC.

“In a sense, tinkering with the rules may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment,’’ Whitty said. “Everybody knows what they need to do. And I think that’s the key thing — minimize the number of contacts.”

England last week entered a third national lockdown that closed all nonessential shops, schools, colleges and universities for at least six weeks. But police report many violations of rules that require people to stay home except for essential reasons such as exercise and grocery shopping.

The government hopes the restrictions will reduce the strain on the NHS while it ramps up a nationwide mass vaccination program. Seven new large-scale vaccination centers are set to open Monday, joining around 1,000 other sites across the country, including hospitals, general practitioners’ clinics and some drugstores.

———

Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak