THE temporary Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate are being asked to prepare for potential patients following the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.

NHS England's Professor Stephen Powis told a Downing Street briefing it would be for local clinicians to decide whether the hospitals are used for Covid patients or to provide extra capacity to maintain services for people without coronavirus.

There will also be increased testing of health staff in hotspot areas.

Professor Powis said: "To protect our staff and our patients we will be introducing, with tests provided by the Test and Trace service, regular testing for staff in these high-risk areas, even when they don't have symptoms.

"This will help us keep staff and patients in those hospitals as safe as possible.

"Secondly, we have asked the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate to prepare for this next phase.

"They are being asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if necessary."

Professor Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said there were now more patients in hospital with coronavirus than there were when the Government ordered the lockdown in March.

"As the infection rate has begun to grow across the country, hospital infections have started to rise," he told a No 10 news briefing.

"It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the North West.

"In the over-65s - particularly the over-85s - we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking."

NHS England's Stephen Powis said there was still no cure or vaccine for Covid-19.

"Sadly, as the number of those infected increases, then so will the number of people who die," he added.

"And that's why the Government is looking at what other measures could be introduced in the areas where infection is rising the most.

"As the Secretary of State for Health has said, if we do not take measures to control the spread of the virus the death toll will be too great to bear."