A government advisory has warned that there is a “great potential” for the NHS to come under extreme pressure this winter because vaccination is reducing levels of immunity to Covid.
Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist in the Sage group of scientists, said it was a matter of concern that the UK had higher rates of hospitalizations and Covid-linked deaths than other European countries.
Downing Street acknowledged on Monday that the coming months would be “challenging”, but insisted there are no plans to restart coronavirus restrictions in England despite rising cases.
For five consecutive days last week, the number of new Covid cases in the UK exceeded 40,000 per day.
New cases rose 17 percent last week compared to the previous seven days, the most recent weekly figures from the website Worldometer show.
This puts the UK above the European average, which is a 13 per cent increase in Covid cases across all EU and non-EU European countries, according to the website which uses data obtained from governments.
The number of Covid-linked deaths in the UK has increased by 9 per cent over the same time period. The European average is an increase of 10 percent.
Professor Hayward told BBC Radio 4 world at one: “I think it is concerning that we have higher rates of infection and higher rates of hospitalization and mortality than many of our European counterparts.
“Whenever we get closer to the winter period, we expect an increase in respiratory virus infections, so I think it is very important that we protect the population with a high level of immunity, especially the elderly and medically. In the most vulnerable groups, as much as possible.”
He said the weakened immunity was “probably” in part because infections are currently high, “some evidence” protection against infection was beginning to deteriorate and “maybe some evidence” protection against serious disease was falling somewhat.
Prof Hayward said: “We should not be complacent because there is still huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure and a lot of unnecessary deaths.
“So we need to increase vaccination rates and potentially be prepared to think about other measures if things get out of control.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics on Friday showed that coronavirus infection levels in England are approaching the peak seen at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, and are being driven mostly by rates among school children.
Nearly one in 10 school children aged 7 to 11 in England were estimated to have had Covid last week, the highest positivity rate for any age group, data show. But an analysis by the PA news agency suggested there was a lower catch of Covid-19 among 12 to 15-year-olds.
Vaccine rates are as low as 5 percent in some areas, while only 15 local authorities in England manage to deliver at least a quarter of 12- to 15-year-olds for the first time, data shows .
In Scotland, where young people can also receive jab doses at drop-in vaccination centres, half of local authority areas already have more than 50 per cent take-up.
To promote take-up in England there has been a demand to offer vaccines for under-16s in walk-in centers instead of school.
Downing Street said the NHS was making “every effort” to contact eligible people and children aged 12-15 for a third jab or booster shot.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman acknowledged the winter would be “challenging”, but insisted there are no plans to restart coronavirus restrictions in England despite rising cases.
Under “Plan B” in the autumn and winter strategy, mandatory face coverings could be reintroduced in some settings, along with the mandatory use of vaccine passports for visiting nightclubs and other mass gatherings.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There are currently no plans to introduce Plan B. If we feel the NHS is coming under continued pressure, we retain that capacity.
“We are monitoring the cases, as you know the cases have increased recently. However, because of protection from vaccines, we have substantially narrowed the link between cases, hospitalizations and deaths, meaning that the number of hospitalizations – and indeed deaths – while they are slightly increased. are not growing at the same rate.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /