Overwhelmed Northamptonshire hospital staff are braced for more Covid-19 patients coming through the door.
The number of people needing treatment for the virus in the county's two main hospitals jumped from 38 to 61 in a week according to latest figures published yesterday (Thursday).
Four of those were in critical care beds by Tuesday (July 27).
NHS England also confirmed two further deaths among Covid patients — one each at Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital.
Ten patients have sadly died with the virus in Northamptonshire during July.
Hospital chiefs say the majority of those being treated in hospital have not been vaccinated.
The news came as public health director Lucy Wightman confirmed healthcare in Northamptonshire is "overwhelmed with Covid and non-Covid patients."
But she added that the impact of easing restrictions on Freedom Day will not become apparent in case numbers until next week.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News: "No one really knows where cases will eventually end up."
The number of new positive tests in Northamptonshire is down to around 2,500 in the last week after peaking at more than 3,500 on January 20 — the day after Freedom Day.
Yet experts fear hospitals are not yet seeing the impact of easing restrictions.
All through the pandemic, it has taken around two weeks for any rise in cases to translate into more hospital cases.
Mrs Wightman said: "There has been a national narrative of cases going down but because in Northamptonshire we didn't start seeing an increase in cases until quite a long way after the rest of England we haven't reached point where numbers started to plateau.
"We are starting to turn that corner and in the last last couple of days it looks like numbers have started to stabilise and stopped going up at the very steep rate they were."
Public Health England estimates that Covid vaccines have prevented 22million infections and 60,000 deaths in England.
And, locally, Mrs Wightman believes the number of hospital patients could be TEN TIMES higher without jabs.
She said: "At this point in time, if we had the same number of cases we'd see about ten times the number of patients in hospital.
"So the effectiveness of the vaccine is unquestionable."
Latest government figures show more than 140,000 adults in Northamptonshire have yet to take up offers of having even a first Covid vaccination.
Mrs wightman added: "The race for the vaccine and the rollout programme was unprecedented in its speed and I understand some people had little time to understand its importance and to be reassured by its safety.
"But I have heard distressing stories in the national press about individuals who have been hospitalised with the disease and bitterly regretted not getting the jab.
"I don’t want anybody to be in that position locally and if you haven’t already, I would urge you to get jabbed as soon as you possibly can."