'Brace' for hard winter as 'significant Covid surge could spark new restrictions as flu strikes', Whitty warns

THE NHS has been warned to “brace” itself for a hard winter – with a flu surge likely.

Professor Chris Whitty told health bosses Britain would likely be hit by another wave of Covid on top of flu, which could spark new restrictions.

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But unless the spike in cases is so bad that it forces the return of social distancing, the UK could also face a major flu outbreak.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference, England’s chief medical officer admitted the medium term outlook is “slightly gloomy” but that we “have to be realistic and get ourselves prepared for that”.

And he warned Covid "has not thrown its last surprise at us and there will be several more over the next period".

Prof Whitty told the meeting: “We need to… brace for the fact that the coming winter may well be quite a difficult one.

“My expectation is that we will get a further winter surge, late autumn/winter surge, and that is because we know that winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses, and therefore it'd be very surprising if this particular highly transmissible respiratory virus was not also favoured.

“The other thing we need to bear in mind is that we had a minimal flu winter, last winter, or RSV [a respiratory virus] in kids.

“We will get all of those back this coming winter, unless the Covid situation is so bad that everybody has started to go back to minimising their social contact again.

“So either we will have a very significant Covid surge, we will minimise our contacts and we will have less respiratory viruses.

It comes as:

  • Face masks won't be a legal requirement on public transport from July 19, says Matt Hancock
  • A health chief has warned daily cases could be ‘up to 25,000’ – and 25 Covid variants are currently being monitored
  • Britain now has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe as the Indian – or Delta – mutation sends cases soaring
  • Care home staff will reportedly be legally obliged to get the jab to protect residents
  • The JCVI says children shouldn't be given the jab until more is known about the risks

“Or people will go back to a more normal life and there will be some Covid. But on top of that we will go back to having a flu surge and an RSV surge in children.”

Prof Whitty said there are areas of deprivation which have been repeatedly impacted by Covid-19.

He said: "So, you see in situations in Bradford, in Leicester, in bits of London for example, in bits of the north west, you see repeated areas where places have been hit over and over again in areas of deprivation.

"These are areas where deprivation has been prolonged and deeply entrenched."

He said the NHS needs to look at these areas and say "look, whatever happens, it's going to happen badly here" whether it's cardiovascular disease, cancer, or new infections.

Yesterday we told how medics in London are being told to prepare for a third Covid wave from August 1 – as well as a spike in serious infections among young children, it's reported.

Hospital chiefs are bracing for a tough summer amid concerns there'll be around half of the coronavirus cases seen during the first wave of the pandemic.

'A CONCERN'

It comes after a Sage advisor warned waiting too long to lift lockdown could prove deadlier with a double wave of Covid and flu.

Experts have predicted another wave is inevitable, regardless of when we fully open up or how many people are double jabbed by that point.

Finding the best moment to fully lift is the key challenge for the Government and their advisors.

Even holding on to a form of lockdown until every adult has been fully dosed with two vaccines could be problematic, Professor Graham Medley agreed.

He told a briefing this morning delaying the lockdown lift until the winter was a "concern" – due to the wave of infections that would follow, combined with a flu outbreak.

The expert warned the influenza epidemic will come, as "contact rates will not be as low" and "because of the fact we didn't have one last winter it will be a bit larger".

Last month Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins told the BBC: "I think we have to prepare for a hard winter, not only with coronavirus, but we've had a year of almost no respiratory viruses of any other type. And that means, potentially the population immunity to that is less.

"So we could see surges in flu. We could see surges in other respiratory viruses and other respiratory pathogens."

 

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