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Health workers are “back in the eye of the storm” as coronavirus cases rise at the end of the “toughest year”, NHS England’s chief executive has said.

Sir Simon Stevens paid tribute to NHS staff in a new year message, saying they had “brilliantly” cared for 200,000 severely ill Covid-19 patients.

He said that by late spring he expected the NHS to have offered vaccinations to all vulnerable people.

That offered “the biggest chink of hope” for 2021, Sir Simon said.

With coronavirus infections at what public health officials called an “unprecedented level” and a new variant spreading, hospitals in England have now surpassed the April

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