Daily Covid hospitalisations could reach 7,000 in Britain unless measures are brought in to curb infections, government scientists have warned.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said its modelling suggested hospitalisations could reach 2,000 to 7,000 per day next month.
Currently there is an average of just over 750 Covid admissions per day in England.
However, the Sage committee says that could sharply rise in the weeks ahead.
The scientists said a “relatively light set of measures” could keep case numbers down if they were brought in early enough.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to avoid the need for additional restrictions by getting more people vaccinated.
Scientists said that the UK might learn to live with thousands of Covid-related deaths for years to come.
The Covid-19 vaccines don’t seem to be a long term solution for the health crisis as new variants emerge, and people will have to live with it.
Seasonal waves of the virus will sweep the country every winter. It will join other seasonal viruses, including influenza. However, it is likely to kill those with underlying conditions with the provided vaccines.
The numbers of Covid cases seem to establish through this summer, but it will rise again, causing a fourth wave this autumn. This is expected to occur yearly for a while.
Fourth wave this autumn
“We are going to see problems with Covid for a long time,” said Prof Adam Finn of Bristol University. “The virus has shown itself to be genetically more nimble than we expected, though not as much as the influenza virus. So I would envisage Covid being a continuing problem for some time, with annual death tolls reaching thousands and possibly tens of thousands.”
Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute in Oxford, has supported this view. “We won’t see Covid-19 spread like wildfire again. There will be enough herd immunity in the population to ensure it will never kick off like that again.
“But everything will not be hunky-dory. We will have waves of illness similar to flu, I think. And they will kill. The issue is: how many? That is difficult to assess, but if you look at current Covid deaths, these are occurring at about 100 a day.
“So a wave that kills a few thousand seems a reasonable measure of what you might expect in a future winter wave. And then, you might get a bad wave one year and have the tens of thousands of deaths.”
However, Prof Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University said: “I suspect numbers of Covid deaths will decrease over time as population immunity to the disease not only increases but also broadens. This is not to say we won’t have deaths every year. But to say it’s likely to be in the thousands is overly pessimistic.