THE number of Covid-19 patients at Royal Berkshire Hospital increased by almost 100 in just one week.

New NHS figures show Covid-19 patients occupied 83 beds at the hospital on December 23 and by December 30, there were 179.

That number reached 194 on January 5 and the following day hospital bosses said it had passed 200.

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Additional capacity has been created in the intensive care unit (ICU) and staff are treating more people for the virus now than they were at the peak of the first wave.

Staff have managed to cope with the influx of Covid-19 patients so far, by implementing contingency plans drawn up after the first wave of the pandemic and using new treatments.

But more Covid patients are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, due to the recent surge in cases, which is believed to have been caused by a new and more infectious strain of the virus.

Reports in the national press claim a leaked NHS document shows the hospital in Reading is at "full stretch" and could soon be overwhelmed.

But Nicky Lloyd, acting Chief Executive Officer for the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, described that claim as "wrong" and said the situation is "under control".

She added: "We have robust plans in place to maintain this stability, keep patients, and staff, safe and ensure everyone who comes to the hospital in need of urgent or emergency care is properly looked after."

Royal Berkshire Hospital bosses have also decided to suspend non-urgent procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, to focus on treating Covid patients on December 31.

However, Dominic Hardy, chief operating officer of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, has said emergency surgeries, urgent cancer surgeries and “essential" diagnostic work will continue.

The pressure on hospitals across the country is mounting and yesterday (January 10) the NHS revealed a staggering 30,758 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, has warned the next few weeks "are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic" for the NHS.