The number of people dying each week this winter is far higher than average levels, official data revealed today. 

Figures show 10,958 deaths were recorded in England and Wales during the last full week of November.

In contrast, this is almost eight per cent higher than the average for the same time period in the previous five years (10,164). 

The Office for National Statistics data shows deaths between November 16 and 22 were also considerably higher – 758 more than the average since 2014.

It comes amid warnings the NHS will face its worst ever winter, as hospitals struggle to cope with staffing shortages.

An early start to the flu season and norovirus outbreaks has also put unprecedented pressure on the overwhelmed health service. 

Figures show 10,958 deaths were recorded in England and Wales during the last full week of November - eight per cent higher than last year (stock)

Figures show 10,958 deaths were recorded in England and Wales during the last full week of November - eight per cent higher than last year (stock)

Figures show 10,958 deaths were recorded in England and Wales during the last full week of November – eight per cent higher than last year (stock)

The ONS data revealed older people are suffering the most, with 7,588 of the deaths aged 75 or older and less than 2,000 under 65. 

Public Health England has already urged older people and children to get vaccinated amid increasing numbers of flu cases and hospital admissions. 

NOROVIRUS OUTBREAKS CLOSING RECORD NUMBER OF HOSPITAL BEDS 

Norovirus outbreaks have caused the NHS to shut more than 1,100 hospital beds in England in the last week. 

Health chiefs are urging people to avoid visiting hospitals or their GP if they have the highly contagious bug, to avoid passing it on.

They said people should stay at home and wait at least 48 hours after symptoms pass to return to work or school.  

The plea for sufferers to stay at home comes amid unprecedented pressure on the NHS, which experts say is ‘already pushed to its limits’. 

Almost double the number of beds have been closed every day this week compared to last year, official figures show.

Norovirus spreads rapidly in hospitals and schools because people are in close quarters, while children can forget to practice proper hygiene. 

Statistics show the number of intensive care admissions for flu are three times higher than at the same point last winter.

Some 212 people across the country have been rushed into ICU with influenza so far this year – up from 75 in 2018 and 63 the year before. 

The alarming figures indicate the flu season has struck the country weeks earlier than normal. 

But thousands of vulnerable patients have not yet been immunised, including up to 80 per cent of nursery children and primary school pupils, 62 per cent of pregnant women and 32 per cent of over-65s, 

Many GP surgeries and pharmacies have only just received supplies of the children’s nasal spray vaccines following a supply glitch with the manufacturers.

The low uptake is largely due to a temporary supply problem with AstraZeneca, the nasal spray’s manufacturer.

Although these issues have since been resolved and stocks are being delivered to GP surgeries and pharmacies, the huge numbers of unvaccinated youngsters is a cause for concern.

Children are known as ‘super-spreaders’ because they tend to catch flu at school or nursery and pass it on to pregnant mothers or grandparents.

This year is the first time officials included Year Six pupils in the vaccination scheme, meaning an extra 600,000 children were offered protection. 

The move was announced after health leaders anticipated a difficult flu season due to an unprecedented outbreak that rocked Australia. 

Almost 293,000 flu cases were recorded in Australia in 2019. The outbreak began to take hold in March – two months earlier than normal.

Data released today revealed there had been triple the number of intensive care admissions for flu this year as in 2018 and 2017

Data released today revealed there had been triple the number of intensive care admissions for flu this year as in 2018 and 2017

Data released today revealed there had been triple the number of intensive care admissions for flu this year as in 2018 and 2017

Panicked health officials have urged parents to get their children immunised because just a fifth of two and three-year-olds have so far received their nasal spray vaccination (stock)

Panicked health officials have urged parents to get their children immunised because just a fifth of two and three-year-olds have so far received their nasal spray vaccination (stock)

Panicked health officials have urged parents to get their children immunised because just a fifth of two and three-year-olds have so far received their nasal spray vaccination (stock)

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE NHS FLU JAB? 

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk.

This includes:  

Over-65s and people with diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

People with serious heart or kidney disease, or people undergoing cancer treatment are also eligible.

Parents with children aged over six months with asthma or diabetes or weakened immunity due to disease or treatment are also being encouraged to bring them into GP surgeries for a free jab.

Other groups include residents in long-stay care homes and people who have lowered immunity due to HIV or are on steroid medication.

NHS workers are also urged to get a free flu jab in order to protect patients. 

Flu is not normally life-threatening for healthy people, and the occasional bout of flu gives better long-term protection than a flu vaccination.

Australia’s flu season usually lasts begins in May and lasts until October, with their outbreaks normally peaking in August.

The flu season in the UK and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere tends to mirror what has happened in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Rates of the winter vomiting bug norovirus are also at their highest in five years and dozens of schools have been forced to close. 

Outbreaks of the virus have caused the NHS to shut more than 1,100 hospital beds in England in the last week. 

People have been told to avoid visiting hospitals or their GP if they have the highly contagious bug, so they don’t pass it on.

Health chiefs said people should stay at home and wait at least 48 hours after symptoms pass to return to work or school.   

Almost double the number of beds have been closed every day last week compared to last year, official figures show. 

Dozens of schools across Britain have also been forced to shut due to a flurry of outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug

Norovirus spreads rapidly in hospitals and schools because people are in close quarters, while children can forget to practice proper hygiene. 

Dozens of schools around the country were shut earlier this month after outbreaks of the virus. 

Students from Howden School in Goole, East Yorkshire, were reportedly sent home, while Parkside School in nearby Bradford closed for a deep clean after more than 15 per cent of its pupils and staff were struck down.   

Some schools in Northern Ireland have seen more than 100 pupils off sick at a time.  

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