THE current Covid situation “does not bode well for winter”, an expert has warned, as talk of lockdowns heats up.
Aside from the coronavirus, the flu will also soon make a comeback and could potentially cause up to 25,000 deaths in one season.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the data suggest that "we're not out of the woods".
He said the Covid-19 figures "do not bode well for winter", as currently 37,000 people are getting diagnosed a day, and 8,000 are admitted to hospital.
Prof Gupta told Sky News: "We can see from the figures that we're still nearing a thousand deaths a week and thousands of hospitalised patients that are challenging capacity in our hospitals.
"[That is] of course making care for non-Covid patients extremely difficult as well because of the stretch of the staff that are in those hospitals who have been under pressure for 18 months now.
"So it's pretty clear I think, from the data and from individual sources, that we're not out of the woods and it doesn't bode well for going into winter at all."
Prof Gupta said the situation moving into autumn “could have been avoided” had the UK opened up more slowly than it did.
He said: "If we cast our minds back to July 19, many scientists including myself, were saying that 'we need to take this slowly because we have the transmission rates are far too high to be removing all restrictions, and this will have a knock on effect – in other words we wouldn't get away with this as a country moving into winter'.
"And what we're seeing now is really the result of that advice not being heeded and now we're in a position where we're talking about lockdowns again.
"So I think that with the correct planning, this could have been avoided."
Meanwhile, Government minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “concerned about flu”, which will soon begin circulating more widely.
Speaking to Sky News, vaccines minister Mr Zahawi said: "We're about to embark on a massive booster campaign and of course a flu vaccination programme – I am concerned about flu, we haven't had much flu circulating anywhere in the world, and in a bad year we could lose up to 25,000 people to flu."
In a typical year, between 10,000 and 30,000 people die of flu in England.
Modelling from scientists say between 15,000 and 60,000 people could die from flu this winter because immunity has waned in the population due to less mixing.
Calum Semple, a member of Sage and professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said “it’s not just going to be coronavirus that’s causing us trouble” this winter.
He told BBC Breakfast it would be a "rough winter" due to Covid, flu, RSV and other viruses.
LAST RESORT LOCKDOWNS
Covid cases have been steadily rising after a dip in mid-July, with the vaccines preventing dire consequences in hospital rates and deaths – although these are also on the up.
It’s given rise to concern that lockdowns will again be needed, should the situation worsen.
Mr Zahawi did not rule out that lockdowns would return, but said they “would be an absolutely last resort”.
It echoes No10’s sentiment, as the Prime Minister's spokesperson said yesterday: “We would only ever consider those sort of measures as a last resort… It is thanks to the fences built up through our vaccine programme that we are in a very different position.”
But asked whether it could be guaranteed families could spend Christmas together, Mr Zahawi said: "The important thing to remember is that, as we embark on the winter months, viruses have an inbuilt advantage, whether it be flu or the Covid virus.
“As (England's chief medical officer) Chris Whitty set out yesterday, it would be foolhardy to think this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic.”
The PM is said to be dead against another lockdown after three crippled the UK’s economy.
He is expected to set out details of the Winter Plan this afternoon at his first coronavirus briefing since July, despite the death of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, yesterday.
Instead of draconian shutdowns, Mr Johnson is only considering bringing back mask wearing in public places and work-at-home advice should they be needed.
The PM’s focus for keeping a fourth wave contained will be on a “massive” booster Covid vaccine programme, reaching all over 50s.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid will set out the details for third doses when he unveils the Government’s winter Covid plan for England in a Commons statement on Tuesday.
Mr Zahwai said: “Winter gives the virus an inbuilt advantage – boosters reduce that advantage by hopefully taking the most vulnerable out of harm’s way.”
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