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Health bosses fear the Covid-19 crisis could see the number of people waiting for NHS treatment double to 10 million by the end of the year.

The NHS Confederation said challenges include a backlog of cases, maintaining social distancing, and staffing.

The body, which represents health and care leaders, said emergency funding and longer-term spending were needed.

The Department of Health has said it will continue to provide the resources, funding and support the NHS needs.

Guidance had been issued on how the NHS “should start to restore services in a safe way”, a spokesman added.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to announce further plans to ease lockdown restrictions in England later, with zoos and drive-in cinemas among the businesses expected to be allowed to reopen from Monday.

Mr Johnson will lead the daily Downing Street briefing, where he is also likely to face questions about the government scrapping plans for all primary school children in England to return to school before the summer break.

Projections by the NHS Confederation show that the NHS waiting list is expected to rise from about 4.2 million currently to about 10 million by Christmas.

This assumes the health service makes a steady return to full capacity within the next 12 months.

In a new report, the NHS Confederation said healthcare services were operating at a reduced capacity of about 60% because of infection control measures.

The body – which covers organisations commissioning and providing health services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – said it faces an “uphill battle” as it tries to restart cancer, stroke and heart care services, while continuing to manage thousands of sick and recovering Covid-19 patients.

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