Covid cases could hit 200,000 a day later this year – a number that would inflict “major disruption” on the NHS, a top SAGE member has warned.
Prof Neil Ferguson said it is “almost certain” that cases will hit 100,000 a day and hospitalisations 1,000 a day, up from 55,000 and 740 a day currently.
Imperial College London expert Prof Ferguson, whose modelling helped prompt the first lockdown, told the BBC: “The real question is do we get to double that, or even higher?
“And that’s where the crystal ball starts to fail.
“I mean, we could get to 2,000 hospitalisations a day, 200,000 cases a day – and it’s much less certain.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick admitted there will be a “significant rise” in cases and hospitalisations – and the third wave may not peak until September.
He told the BBC: “It is likely that this wave, that we’ve known about since at least the beginning of the year, isn’t going to peak until late August, possibly even into September so there’s going to be some challenging days ahead.”
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It comes despite Boris Johnson ploughing ahead with ‘Freedom Day’ tomorrow with England’s nightclubs opening, and social distancing and mask laws dropped.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has Covid-19 but the PM dodged isolation – despite a meeting with Mr Javid on Friday – by taking part in a pilot testing scheme.
Prof Ferguson stressed it was “very difficult to say for certain, but I think 100,000 cases a day is almost inevitable.”
He said with the relaxation of rules on Monday – but also school holidays starting on Thursday – contact rates would tick down in teenagers but potentially up in others.
Prof Ferguson said the consequences of 2,000 hospitalisations a day would be “major disruption of services and cancellation of elected surgery and the backlog in the NHS getting longer and longer.”
He said people being hospitalised now appear to be less severely ill than hospitalised people in December and the death rate is lower.
But “if you have enough cases, you can still have quite a significant burden on the healthcare system,” he said.
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Sunday Mirror)
Hundreds of thousands of people per week are being ‘pinged’ into isolation, leading to a crisis in the meat and car industries and forcing parts of the London Underground to close.
Prof Ferguson said “fundamentally this will be a different wave from the previous two”, because the peak will only happen once the government has achieved “herd immunity” by both vaccination and infection.
But he said there was still uncertainty about when that peak might be reached – especially amid reports not all over-12s will be offered the vaccine.
“We won’t reach herd immunity without significant immunity in people under 18,” Prof Ferguson warned.
Mr Hopson told Times Radio there could be 14,000 people in total in hospitals in mid-August, adding: “The real question is, when does this cap out? In other words when does the community infection rate start to peak?
“And what’s deeply fascinating is, nobody knows. And there is a real sense of, we just don’t know, at this point.”