NHS England has now treated more than one million Covid patients since the pandemic began, a health service chief revealed as he warned the virus still poses a risk.
Chief strategy officer Chris Hopson gave the figure on the third anniversary of the Covid lockdown, when the public were ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus in 2020.
An expert has also suggested that were the UK to experience another pandemic, it would be possible for lockdowns to be less stringent.
Mr Hopson said: “New figures today show our hardworking staff have now treated more than one million patients with Covid in hospitals across England throughout the pandemic.”
“While we are in a very different situation today than we were three years ago, thanks largely to the speed and success of the NHS Covid vaccination programme, we know the virus still poses risks,” he continued.
The NHS is still under significant pressure, with an adult general and acute bed occupancy rate of 93%.
It is thought that about one in twenty people in the UK are currently infected with Covid, and there have now been more than 200,000 deaths with coronavirus recorded on the related death certificate.
Mr Hopson also told Sky News that “lots of the country has gone back to normal, but we in the NHS haven’t gone back to normal, we are still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic”.
“If you’ve got Covid, we can’t operate on you because of infection risk,” he added.
“We also have our staff coming down with Covid.
“Thanks to the vaccine, Covid isn’t as deadly as it once was, but the operational consequences are still enormous.”
David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy, said if the country was to face another pandemic, “next time around it should be possible to lock down less”.
He told Times Radio: “What is important is to identify people with the disease and isolate them. Lockdowns are a last resort, what you need are systems in place to find people when they are ill.
“I want to stress that we should also try to make sure that people are the heroes of the response rather than needing to be controlled. In a pandemic, people are the solution and the virus is the problem – people need to feel that the government is on their side.”
When asked about the origins of Covid-19, he said that investigations were still ongoing.
“I wish we knew where Covid came from — you very rarely know the actual cause of a pandemic, you just have to do everything you can to act.”
Silences were planned to mark a National Day of Reflection, including a 10-foot long Wall of Reflection, where people can write and share memories of loved ones who have died, which has been set up on London’s South Bank by end of life charity Marie Curie.
It will be open until 7pm on Thursday.