The coronavirus epidemic could see up to 7.9 million people requiring hospital treatment in the next 12 months, according to a Public Health England briefing seen by Sky News.
The document also confirms that healthcare workers who have symptoms of COVID-19 would not necessarily all be tested.
“Laboratory capacity is growing steadily but remains under significant demand pressures,” it said.
Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of PHE’s national infection service said: “PHE used reasonable worse-case scenario figures, to restate the importance for people with symptoms to stay at home, including health care workers in order to reduce the spread of the virus.”
The Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty has previously said up to 80% of the population could catch the virus in a worst-case scenario.
The PHE briefing adds that “up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation”.
While the figures are not completely unexpected they bring into stark focus the challenge the NHS will face in the coming months.
On Sunday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on businesses to step up production of vital medical equipment including ventilators.
Writing on Twitter, Conservative Andrew Bowie said MPs had had been “inundated with offers” and advised businesses to contact a government helpline.
In a conference call with British manufacturers on Monday morning, Boris Johnson will set out what they can do to help in the fight against coronavirus.
He will also confirm that the government will purchase any ventilators that are produced by companies in the coming weeks.
However, intensive care doctors say that any new equipment will need to be appropriate for those using it and signed off by the healthcare regulator.
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