The NHS needs to brace itself for another difficult winter ahead, with the possibility of a further “very significant Covid surge”, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned.
Prof Whitty’s warning came as experts said the UK was now at the beginning of a third wave of the virus, and that the return of lockdown restrictions could not be ruled out, with the possibility of as many as 1,200 deaths a day at the peak.
A study commissioned by the government found that coronavirus cases are “rising exponentially” across England and doubling every 11 days, driven largely by younger, unvaccinated age groups.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that from Friday, 18-year-olds in England will be able to book vaccinations as part of a drive to protect all adults against Covid-19 before the delayed end to lockdown restrictions on 19 July.
As the NHS passed the milestone of administering first doses of vaccine to four-fifths of all adults in the UK (42,216,654 people) and second doses to 58 per cent (30,675,207), Mr Hancock said the country was “entering the final furlong in our race against the virus”.