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HSJ forecast last week that the NHS would end 2020 with a similar number of coronavirus patients in hospital beds to that on 12 April, the peak of the first wave.

During the summer it was hoped – and by many, expected – that grim benchmark would never be reached again.

On Wednesday our analysis looked locally, and identified 14 acute trusts which are on course to end the year with at least a third of their beds occupied by covid patients. This means they have almost certainly already cancelled most of their non-urgent planned inpatient operations, and can expect severe operational problems if they have to deal with anything like the normal level of non-covid patients.

But the numbers have continued mounting, and it now looks likely that, unless things turn a sharp corner between now and Friday, the first wave’s peak covid occupancy of 18,974 may well be exceeded on Christmas Day itself.

NHS England and government are also, at least, due to bring us some slightly more positive news for the season, by announcing the latest number of people who have received their first covid-19 vaccination shot so far, a statistic due on Thursday morning.

It should reveal an acceleration in pace – though it won’t be as fast as some would like to see – and also speaks of the mammoth task ahead in 2021.