A STARK warning has been this morning issued that the next few weeks will be the "worst weeks of the pandemic" for the NHS.

England's Chief Medical Officer made the warning as he said there would be a "significant crisis" for the health service unless the country took "evasive action."

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “The peak we had back in April last year, we had about 18,000 people in the NHS.

"We currently, as of yesterday, have over 30,000 people in the NHS.

“A week ago, all the four chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said: ‘This is going to be a significant crisis for the NHS unless we take evasive action’.

“This new variant is really pushing things in a way that the old variant – which was already very bad – was not able to.

“So, we have a very significant problem, this is a serious problem and it is rising in every part of England.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS.”

Prof Whitty later revealed how the delay of the second dose of the Covid vaccines would allow the number of people to be vaccinated in the first place.

He said delaying the second dose of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines by up to 12 weeks is “about doubling the number of people that we can vaccinate (with) the first vaccine in the first 12 weeks”.

“And what we have seen on the science of this is that the great majority of the protection – not absolutely all of it but the great majority – comes from that first vaccination.

“So, if you can get the majority, by far the majority protection, well over 50% for both the vaccines that are currently available, in two people rather than slightly increased protection to just to one person, you’re clearly getting a significant public health gain.”

Asked if senior NHS doctors should be carrying on with their private work, he said: “I certainly think that this is a point in time when medical professionals should be trying to prioritise what they do for the sickest patients, who aren’t all people who have got Covid.

“The question about how people divide their work between private and NHS I think I probably should leave to discussions between them and the NHS, but I would hope and expect that medical professionals, nursing professionals and other health professionals would be prioritising the most serious conditions at this point in time, if they have the capacity to do that.”