More than 120,000 Britons could die in hospital from Covid-19 this winter, ministers have been warned.
Prominent academics were asked to predict a “ reasonable worst case scenario ” about how a second wave of coronavirus could hit Britain by No. 10 lead scientist Sir Patrick Vallance.
The group – from the Academy of Medical Sciences – found that during the worst outbreak in December and January, 3,000 people die in hospitals every day.
They modeled what would happen if the UK’s R rate – the average number of people who infect each Covid-19 patient – rose to 1.7.
Data suggested that 119,900 Covid infected patients would die in NHS hospitals between September and next June, if the virus reappears this winter.
But the report did not look at nursing home deaths, which are responsible for a third of the nearly 45,000 laboratory confirmed coronavirus deaths to date.
The group of 37 experts behind the report said that the combination of Covid-19 and flu, as well as a huge backlog of patients on waiting lists, could overwhelm the NHS.
And the academics called for urgent action, saying there is now a “critical window” to help us prepare for “the worst winter can do to us.”
Modeling by the Academy of Medical Sciences estimates that more than 120,000 people may die of coronavirus this winter in a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’
The modeling assumed that the R – the average number of people infecting each Covid-19 patient – would rise to 1.7
Modeling by the AMS suggested that there would be a spike in hospital admissions and deaths in January and February 2021, coinciding with a period of peak demand on the NHS.
It estimates the number of hospital-related deaths from Covid-19, excluding care homes, at 120,000.
But the numbers don’t take into account future lockdowns or the recent success of a trial of the steroid dexamethasone, which lowered the death rate in Covid-19 patients.
Both could significantly reduce the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK, the researchers admitted.
In the report, published today, scientists warned that even if the R rate rises between 1.1 and 1.5, it is “ likely to stretch the NHS. ”
They have developed a set of measures that can further reduce the risk of a new coronavirus outbreak.
The number of patients with respiratory problems increases from August to March, data from the British Lung Foundation show
Government scientists have ‘strong evidence’ that the virus survives TEN TIMES longer in the cold
Ministers have been told to prepare for a wave of coronavirus cases this winter, which could trigger a second national shutdown.
The government’s scientific advisors now have “strong” evidence that the virus thrives at an optimum temperature of about 4 ° C (39 ° F).
They say that, coupled with the annual pressure on the NHS caused by seasonal flu, means the UK is headed for a “ difficult winter. ”
A senior official said, “We can get away a lot right now because it’s summer.
“It is really important that people prepare for the challenges that winter will undoubtedly bring.”
Ministers aim to control the flare-up of the virus through local closures, such as those imposed last week in Leicester.
But a senior official said, “If the total number increases, I would expect to have to reintroduce some national measures.”
The official added that the government’s much-maligned testing and tracking strategy should work “absolutely flawlessly” by fall.
A new blockade would have devastating economic consequences. It could also hinder Boris Johnson’s plans to return all children to school, although experts from the Scientific Emergency Group (Sage) have emphasized that school reopening should be a “priority.”
Officials said it is “significant” that the city of Melbourne in Australia, where it’s currently winter, had to impose a second shutdown on its five million residents this week.
The experts called on the government to rapidly improve its track & trace system so that all Britons with Covid-19 symptoms overlapping with flu will be tested.
Currently, the program still fails to track a quarter of patients who test positive for coronavirus, official figures show.
Scientists have warned that contact tracers must catch at least 80 percent of infections in order to limit the spread of the virus.
The report also calls for private hospitals to be maintained as Covid-19 free zones so that patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases can be safely treated,
Adequate PPE and strict infection control measures should also be maintained in hospitals and nursing homes, the scientists said.
And there should be a good flu vaccine uptake in the fall to prevent a possible flu outbreak, which could coincide with another Covid-19 epidemic.
Professor Stephen Holgate, a respiratory specialist from University Hospital Southampton’s NHS Foundation Trust, who chaired the report, said, “This is not a prediction, but it is a possibility.
The modeling suggests that deaths could be higher this winter with a new wave of Covid-19, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take immediate action.
“With relatively low numbers of Covid-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical opportunity to help us prepare for the worst winter can happen to us.”
Health bosses fear that in England alone, 10 million people could wait for treatment and testing because Covid-19 will disrupt services this year.
People spend more time indoors during the colder months, where infectious diseases like the coronavirus and the flu can spread more easily.
A lack of vitamin D that boosts the immune system, which is made by the body when exposed to sunlight, also makes diseases more common.
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, vice president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Every winter we see an increase in hospital admissions and deaths in the UK.
‘This is due to a combination of seasonal infections such as the flu and the effects of, for example, colder weather on heart and lung diseases.
“This winter, we need to consider the potential for a new wave of coronavirus infections and the continuing effects of the first wave. We must be prepared to experience an influenza epidemic this year.
Faced with these potential challenges, and after an already difficult year, it would be easy to feel hopeless and powerless.
“But this report shows that we can now intervene to change things for the better. We need to minimize the transmission of coronavirus and flu everywhere, especially in hospitals and care homes.
‘We must prepare our health and social care and the track, trace and isolation program for the winter. This is possible, but it must be done now. ‘