BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL has declared a “major incident” across the county, fearing local healthcare services could be ‘overwhelmed’ following a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

Council leader Cllr Martin Tett took to social media this afternoon with the stark warning to residents, having finished a recent consultation with health service experts.

Bucks Free Press: Nearly 800 more reported cases were confirmed on December 29 after a 24-hour period, and due to the spread of the virus across the country, health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed 23 other locations in the UK are to be placed into Tier 4.

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Buckinghamshire has been in Tier 4 since December 19.

Cllr Tett said rising rates are of “greatest concern” in older age groups, with infections in over 60s going up more than 60 per cent.

He said despite "excellent news" the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for use in the United Kingdom, with first doses due to be administered on Monday, Buckinghamshire must immediately deal with its “deteriorating situation”.

In a statement, Buckinghamshire Council said: "In consultation with health service partners, has declared a ‘major incident’ amid fears the rapid rise in the number of Covid-19 cases could overwhelm the county's health and social care services."

Leader of the Council, Martin Tett, added: “Whilst today’s announcement about the approval of the Oxford vaccine is excellent news, we still need to deal with the deteriorating situation we face immediately across the county.

“Figures up to December 24 put the number of cases now up at 514 per 100,000 and current projections are expecting this to increase to closer to 800 per 100,000 by next week.  

“The average Covid-19 rate per 100,000 of the population in England is currently 402.6.

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“We believe that this rapid increase is due to the spread of the new, more transmissible Covid variant across much of the South East, particularly prior to the introduction of the Tier 4 regulations.

“Of real concern is that this increase is also being seen in our older age groups. 

“Our rate in the over 60 years population is now putting our health and social care services under very severe pressure - the rates in this age group have gone up by over 60 per cent and we think this will continue at least for the next two weeks. 

“I would encourage everyone to stay at home as much as possible and help those who are most vulnerable, by offering to collect their shopping and prescriptions etc.”

The news of over parts of the country was confirmed on the same day that the Oxford Vaccine will be available to be used in the near future.

The Marlow Medical Group revealed that they will be distributing the vaccine in January when available.

However, due to the rapid rise, people are being urged to contact the NHS in case they show any symptoms, to try and stop the spread.

Neil Macdonald, who is the chief executive officer for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Due to a rise in the number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19, along with the need to maintain services across the trust, some temporary changes have been made to ensure safe and appropriate staffing levels at all times and to ensure that we have enough beds to meet current and anticipated demand.

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“This includes postponing or delaying some non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments but urgent operations, including cancer, will continue as planned.

“I want to reassure you that we are still here for you and if you are offered an appointment would urge you to keep it - but we need your help at this really busy time to keep our hospitals for those that need them most and are seriously ill. 

“If you are feeling unwell and are not sure which service you need, contact NHS 111 for advice.

“They will make sure that you are seen by the right people, in the right place as quickly as possible whether that is your GP, the Urgent Treatment Centre or the Emergency Department (A&E).

“They can book you an appointment so that you won’t have to wait about unnecessarily.”

Dr Raj Bajwa, Clinical Chair, NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group added: “If you have a less urgent concern or a minor illness, we would remind everyone that excellent sources of health advice are also available via the Ask NHS app, NHS 111 online and at your local pharmacy.

By using these options for minor health concerns, you can help GP practices ensure that we support patients with the most urgent needs more quickly.

Lots of other health and well-being information, including advice on self-care and looking after your mental health, is available via the Buckinghamshire Ready for Winter page.”

READ MORE: Covid-19: Increase in cases across Buckinghamshire

On Monday, December 28, figures showed the number of patients being treated for Covid-19 across hospitals in England was at a record high of 20,426 - exceeding the previous peak of about 19,000 in April.