The number of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid could rise to 7,000 a day within weeks, the Government’s scientific advisers warned in a gloomy prediction yesterday.
Despite the recent flattening off in cases and little sign of a post-summer surge, modellers from a Sage sub-committee claimed daily hospitalisations could reach almost double their January peak.
The predicted total is worse than last year and seven times that of the latest figures – which show the number admitted in England was just 1,009.
Yet the Sage modellers called on ministers to be prepared to abandon their ‘light-touch’ measures and bring in fresh curbs soon or risk a major increase in cases and hospitalisations, due to children returning to school and workers going back to the office.
The number of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid could rise to 7,000 a day within weeks, the Government’s scientific advisers warned in a gloomy prediction
The predicted total is worse than last year and seven times that of the latest figures – which show the number admitted in England was just 1,009
In a newly released document from the expert committee, they propose a basket of measures to keep the epidemic under control. These include more mask wearing, continued home working, more widespread testing and a return to all contacts of cases self-isolating.
Modelling by Sage – which has become infamous for its gloomy predictions – warned that hospital admissions could hit 2,000 to 7,000 in England next month. This far surpasses the winter peak of 4,309 on January 11.
The warning comes despite the fact that the number of new Covid cases reported has fallen week-on-week, according to latest figures.
The Sage documents say: ‘With the current levels of high prevalence combined with unknown behaviours, the burden on health and care settings could rise very quickly.’
While acknowledging that jabs have tamed the virus, they said ‘it could be a very difficult winter ahead’ if acute Covid combines with other pressures such as long Covid or other infections such as flu.
According to the document, the modellers expect R – the number of people an infected person infects – to rise from about 1 in England to between 1.1 and 1.5 as schools reopen and people return to work.
If so, daily hospitalisations in October could peak at around 2,000 if R is 1.1 and 7,000 if it is 1.5.
Extreme scenarios projecting many more cases are highly unlikely, the modellers add, unless there is a substantial waning of immunity or a new variant emerges.
Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (pictured from left to right) during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus on Tuesday
Despite the recent flattening off in cases and little sign of a post-summer surge, modellers from a Sage sub-committee claimed daily hospitalisations could reach almost double their January peak (file photo)
Sage’s models will not have factored in the effect of vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds or giving booster doses to 30 million vulnerable adults, policies that were only announced in the last two days.
Yesterday the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, appearing alongside the Prime Minister at a Downing Street press conference, said it was important to act early to combat the virus.
‘The principles, which have been really clear, are when you make a move you have to go earlier than you think you want to, you have to go harder than you think you want to, and you have to have the right geographical coverage,’ he added.
He said the UK was now at a ‘pivot point’ where, if the situation worsens, it could do so rapidly.
NHS Confederation chief Matthew Taylor told the BBC’s World at One: ‘It’s something we have to keep a very careful eye on. We’ve also got to be aware the NHS is facing the backlog of care that’s built up over the last 18 months. We are trying to manage Covid, and also address the backlog.’