Thursday, 29 Jul 2021

Covid cases 'could hit 200,000 a day' when third wave hits peak

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A key scientist advising the government on its Covid-19 strategy has warned cases could hit 200,000 a day.

Professor Neil Ferguson said modelling indicated 100,000 daily infections is ‘inevitable’ after social-distancing rules are relaxed on Monday.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 50,000 on Friday for the first time since January but the government admits things are going to get worse before they get better.

Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have already cautioned ministers there could be 200 deaths a day by the time the third wave hits its peak later this summer.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr about the potential for 100,000 cases a day, Prof Ferguson said: ‘The real question is, do we get to double that or even higher? 

‘And that’s where the crystal ball starts to fail. We could get to 2,000 hospitalisations a day, 200,000 cases a day, but it’s much less certain.’

He said Covid-19 could still place a ‘significant burden’ on the NHS despite vaccines and said 2,000 hospitalisations a day would cause disruption despite being ‘roughly half what we got to before Christmas with the second wave’.

Prof Ferguson added: ‘There you are talking about major disruption of services and cancellation of elective surgery and the backlog in the NHS getting longer and longer.’

Asked what success at this stage of the pandemic looked like, he said: ‘Success would be keeping hospitalisations at around 1,000 a day level and then declining.

‘Case numbers maybe peaking a little over 100,000 a day and then slowly declining. It is likely to be a slow decline.’

Prof Ferguson said a ‘difficult’ summer will be followed by a winter where influenza cold cause real problems for the health service.

He warned: ‘Going into the winter, I think we’ll have quite a high degree of immunity against Covid.

‘The real concerns are a resurgence of influenza because we haven’t had any influenza for 18 months, immunity has waned in the population.

‘That could be, frankly, almost as damaging, both for health and for the health system by December, January, as Covid has been this year.’

Prof Ferguson also said he would continue to wear a mask, saying: ‘Given the circumstances, I’m going to continue my behaviour as I have been really for the last few months, at least until the autumn.’

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has warned the summer wave may not peak until ‘early September’ and warned the country to brace for ‘some quite challenging weeks ahead’.

He defended the decision to go ahead with lockdown lifting in England on Monday, telling Sky News’ Trevor Phillips: ‘We will all need to exercise good judgement.

‘We are moving from that time when the state told you what to do, things were mandated as a matter of law, to one which had to come at some point where we trusted people, we trusted businesses and organisations, and gave them the information they needed to make good judgments.’

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