A leaked government report from UK revealed that Britain could experience a death toll over 85,000 during the winter as a second Covid wave could hit the country. The report described it as a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’. The potential for a high death count from Covid-19 was put forward by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, in a report late last month.
The leaked document, seen by BBC’s Newsnight, put forward a “scenario, not a prediction” in which schools reopened but other lock-down restrictions are re-imposed from November for several months. The modelling suggested that in the seven months to March there would be Covid-19 81,000 deaths in England and Wales, 2,600 in Scotland and 1,900 in Northern Ireland.
The UK holds the record of the worst excess death rate in Europe, so the report is bound to have caused alarm in Whitehall. It was compiled by scientists to give hospitals and local authorities the chance to prepare for a significant rise in cases and deaths over winter. There are growing worries that Britain will be hit by the second corona virus wave that has gripped parts of Europe, with France and Spain experiencing surges.
In the past week infections in Britain have risen by an average of 200 extra a day with more than 1,700 new cases recorded on Sunday, the highest total since June 4. This rate is sure to surge in the coming weeks as people would return from summer holidays and the schools reopen. Despite infections rising, deaths in the UK have continued to decline in recent weeks, as per the latest ONS data.
The Sage report admitted that there was a significant degree of uncertainty in predicting the effect of the virus over winter. The figure of 85,000 is also lower than a previous report that suggested 120,000 corona virus deaths in the cold months.
The latest report predicts that up to 9 per cent of infected people will require hospital treatment and that one in five admitted patients will need intensive-care treatment. The study was based on the expectation that efforts to trace and isolate sufferers and people they had been in contact with would be only 40 per cent effective.
Meanwhile, a Cabinet spokesman defended the report and said, “As a responsible government we have been planning and continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst-case scenario. Our planning is not a prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”
Student bodies warn that universities could become centres for spreading infection, with people travelling back to studies in coming weeks. “Universities could become the care homes of any second wave of Covid,” said Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union. The very people who are increasingly getting infected are being encouraged to move around the country and congregate and live together. It doesn’t make sense.”
Government figures have warned that extensive local lock-downs could be used alongside nationwide restrictions if Britain were hit by a second wave. They have suggested that a vaccine is unlikely to be available until next spring at the earliest.