Hospitals in Greater Manchester are facing a ‘hard winter’ as Covid-19 cases continue to dominate intensive care beds.

More than half of intensive care beds in Greater Manchester hospitals are now occupied by patients with Covid-19 as the leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, warns there will be a “long, hard winter” ahead.

Presenting the figures at a press briefing to reporters on Wednesday, he described a “gloomy” picture of public health.

Sir Richard said: “The system, I am confident, it will not collapse, because I think the level of organisation and planning has been very, very good indeed.”

On Monday night the North West Ambulance Service declared a major incident due to high demand, exacerbated by capacity issues within the hospital system.

Sir Richard said there were 126 patients with Covid-19 currently occupying high dependency or intensive care beds in the region.

There was a further 1,049 Covid patients in non high-dependency hospital beds in the region, with the median age of both categories of patients around 60 years old.

He added: “That means that Covid patients are now over 50 percent of cases in ICU, intensive care beds.

“Hospitals are in the process now, of significantly increasing the number of ICU beds available.

“It is undoubtedly the case the pressure on the health service is really ramping up at the moment.

“The whole system is under an enormous amount of pressure.”

He said one or two hospitals now had more than 30 percent of beds occupied by Covid patients, approaching the threshold where the ability to do elective surgery is impacted.

During the press briefing, Sir Richard appealed to the public to protect the NHS and health workers by observing the lockdown rules, coming into force at midnight on Wednesday.

He said: “These are people who have been working their socks off now for months and clearly there is some real tiredness.

“Again as a community we need to be doing everything we can to support our health service staff to keep them going through the winter because it is going to be a long, hard winter."

Overall the rate of increase of people having the virus in the region has slowed down with cases per 100,000, now standing at 550.4 for the week ending October 30, up slightly from the previous seven-day period where it stood at 544.1.

But the total number of cases already exceeds the peak of the first wave in April and May even though now it appears to be “levelling off”, reporters were told.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, during the same press briefing, echoed the appeal to help NHS staff by sticking to the rules.

Mr Burnham said: “Think about those staff, the pressure they are under.

“In some ways it’s not about what politicians are asking you to do.

“Just think about the people out there trying to keep our families, our friends, our neighbours safe, working on the NHS front line – we all of us owe it to them to follow all of the rules and bring things back to a more manageable situation.”