09:39 GMT17 January 2021
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    LONDON (Sputnik) – UK COVID-19 patients could be sent to hotels to free up hospital beds and relieve pressure on the National Health Service which is on the brink of becoming overwhelmed by the increasing number of people being infected with the novel coronavirus, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Wednesday.

    "There are huge pressures on the NHS and, as you'd expect, we're looking to all different ways that we can relieve those pressures", Hancock told Sky News when asked about media reports saying that patients would be discharged earlier from hospitals.

    He said, however, that such steps would only be taken if it is clinically right to do it, because in some cases, "people need step-down care and do not need to be in a hospital bed".

    "This isn't a concrete proposal by any means, but it's something that we look at, because we look at all contingencies", Hancock stressed.

    As of Tuesday, there were 35,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the UK, up around 20 percent compared to the past week and the largest number since the pandemic began.

    When pressed to give an exact date for the lifting of the current lockdown, Hancock admitted that "it is impossible to know", saying that restrictions will be in place "not a moment longer than they are necessary, but as long as they necessary".

    He said the vaccine rollout programme "is going really" well and that the government is on track to deliver the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines to the four groups who are most vulnerable by 15 February.

    The UK has so far recorded over 3.1 million COVID-19 cases and 83,201 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

    Tags:
    Matt Hancock, vaccinations, National Health Service (NHS), COVID-19, UK
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