Home U.K Winter surge ‘would quickly see the NHS very heavily stressed’, says NEIL...

Winter surge ‘would quickly see the NHS very heavily stressed’, says NEIL FERGUSON


Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the decision to “live with Covid” was behind the high current levels of transmission. He also said the UK was too slow to go into lockdown last autumn. Prof Ferguson said: “We are starting with quite a high incidence and so we don’t have very much headroom for increases.

“If we compare, for instance, incidence of Covid cases per day in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal, there is a much lower level than us.

“So they can afford to see something of a surge of transmission, which they may well, without unduly stressing the health system.

“We are much closer to the limit of what the NHS can cope with. I think that is what is exercising Whitehall and policy-makers, that limited headroom.

“We could see continued flat incidence, even slow decline if we get boosters out quickly.

“So it’s not guaranteed we will see a large winter surge by any means. But we can’t afford to have too much of a winter surge before the NHS is very heavily stressed.”

Asked about what other countries were doing, and whether the UK wants to keep case rates down, Prof Ferguson said: “The Government clearly has said, it’s not really science here, it’s a political judgment – they want to live with Covid. Their prime criteria for acting is additional pressure on the NHS.”

Prof Ferguson added: “I personally think it’s unlikely we’ll see a very large wave comparable to what we saw in the second wave last year.

“But we could still see quite a substantial wave of transmission, and the real challenge will be the extent to which that stresses the NHS, where capacity is limited.”

The expert told MPs that in order to move away from the emergency situation of the pandemic, the “number one thing” the Government can do is “increase vaccination coverage, increase booster coverage”. He believes over the next few years the country could see seasonal surges of transmission that will “challenge the health system on top of flu and everything else”.

Prof Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, also told MPs that the number of people who have died from Covid is intrinsically linked to when governments intervened.

He said: “Historically, looking back on the pandemic, the principle determinate of mortality has been timing of interventions relative to the stage of the epidemic reached in a particular country. I think a lot of countries frankly were much too slow in acting in the autumn of last year.”

Prof Ferguson was addressing the All-Party Group on Coronavirus.

A further 166 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, the Government said yesterday, bringing the UK total to 137,152. There have also been a further 33,869 cases.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show there have been 161,000 deaths where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.

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