Between 2,000 and 7,000 people a day could be hospitalised with Covid in England next month unless the government urgently implements a “basket of measures”, government scientific advisers have warned as Boris Johnson made clear he hopes to avoid fresh restrictions.
The prime minister confirmed on Tuesday that Covid passports, the return of mandatory mask-wearing and advice to work from home would be kept in reserve as the government’s “plan B”, to be introduced if the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.
But newly published modelling from experts on the Sage advisory committee warn the government not to wait too long, with cases, hospitalisations and deaths all higher than a year ago despite the success of the vaccination programme.
Speaking alongside Johnson at a Downing Street press conference, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, also said experience of battling the virus showed “you have to go earlier than you think you want to, you have to go harder than you think you want to”. He said the UK was now at a “pivot point” where, if the situation worsens, it could do so rapidly.
Modellers on the Sage committee expect cases to rise in the coming months after almost all restrictions were lifted this summer, documents show. Daily hospitalisations could plausibly peak at 7,000 in England next month, far surpassing the winter peak, which reached 4,500 UK-wide, according to the updated modelling. Currently about 1,000 people with Covid are being admitted to UK hospital wards each day.