The head of the NHS has said people who deny the existence of COVID-19 are “lying” during a blistering takedown at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said people who believe COVID-19 is a hoax were responsible for people’s deaths and belittled the work of nurses who were already exhausted and stretched thin.
The warning came after Sir Simon said the NHS had seen more than 10,000 new coronavirus in-patients since Christmas Day and warned the numbers were “accelerating very very rapidly.”
Watch: Simon Stevens: Claims hospitals are not under pressure from Covid-19 are 'an insult'
He said the new patients were enough to fill 20 hospitals and the NHS now had 50% more coronavirus patients than during the previous peak in April.
Answering a question from Channel 4’s Victoria MacDonald Sir Simon said: “Let’s just be completely straight forward about it when people say that it is a lie.
“If you sneak into a hospital in an empty corridor at 9 o’clock at night and film that particular corridor and then stick it up on social media and say this proves the hospitals are empty the whole thing is a hoax.
“You are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people but it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care having worked their guts under on the most demanding and trying of circumstances.
“There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue.
He then praised the work of TV journalists covering the realities in hospitals at the moment, he said: “You are reporting what is actually going on and that is what people need to concentrate on.”
In response to the question, Boris Johnson said COVID deniers needed to “grow up.”
Thursday was the second deadliest day in the pandemic so far, with 1,162 new deaths reported, beaten only by the 1,224 recorded on April 21.
While there has been generally strong support for lockdown in the UK, there has been a vocal minority who have protested against strict measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
There have been protests across the UK against lockdown measures which have featured prominent conspiracy theorists and far-right members.
One of the most regular faces of the protests was Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers who was charged with breaking coronavirus guidelines at a protest in Hyde Park in December.
When discussing the bleak situation facing hospitals Sir Simon said: "We've seen an increase of 10,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients just since Christmas Day, that's the equivalent of filling 20 acute hospitals with extra coronavirus patients."
He also highlighted that the influx of patients was coming at the busiest time of year for the NHS.
Sir Simon said: “That is all happening at what is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospitals and the wider NHS and so whereas in April for everyone one coronavirus in-patient we were looking after two other hospitalised patients for other conditions now for everyone one coronavirus in-patient we’re looking after three other patients.”
He said he was sure the message from all people who work for the NHS was to encourage everyone to do what is necessary to get infections down.
Watch: Boris Johnson: Every elderly care home resident to be offered vaccine by end of January