Another Covid surge likely within the next year, warns Chris Whitty
All current modelling suggests another wave of coronavirus is likely within the next year despite the speed of the vaccine rollout, Professor Chris Whitty has warned MPs.
England’s chief medical officer said that even under the most optimistic set of assumptions a further 30,000 people will likely die from Covid-19.
Speaking at the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, Whitty said current modelling suggests “that at some point we will get a surge in virus”.
“We hope it doesn’t happen soon, it might for example happen later in the summer if we open up gradually or because of the seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn and winter,” he said.
The medical chief added that the surge might result from lockdown restrictions easing before everybody has been vaccinated.
“All the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge and that will find the people who either have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked,” he said. “Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die. That is just the reality of the situation.”
“I think a lot of people may think that this is all over. I would encourage them to look at what is happening in continental Europe at the moment where a lot of countries are going back into rates going up and having to close things down again having not been in that situation before,” he added.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the reopening of schools would likely cause the R rate to rise slightly, but that scientists and ministers would monitor the situation closely.
Children returned to classrooms yesterday for the first time in more than three months, after schools were given the green light to reopen.
Outdoor gatherings of up to six people, or two different households, will be allowed from 29 March under the Prime Minister’s roadmap for leaving lockdown.
Stay at home orders will expire from that date, while outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen.
Boris Johnson has insisted ministers will move according to “data not dates” in lifting restrictions, despite coronavirus cases plummeting to their lowest level since October over the past few days.
The number of daily Covid cases in the UK fell to 4,712 yesterday — marking a significant drop since the start of this year, when more than 60,000 infections were recorded.
However, Whitty resisted calls to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, as he warned that the size and timing of a resurgence would depend on the speed of reopening society.
“If you look at the history of this all around the world, the history of this is not full of countries and individual leaders wishing they had done more, faster,” he said.
“It’s full of leaders who wished they had acted quicker and then been more careful as they take things off.”
Almost 22.5m people have received their first dose of a Covid jab in the UK — equivalent to almost a third of all Brits.
The Prime Minister has set a target to offer a first dose of the jab to all over-50s by 15 April, and all over-18s by 31 July.