Scientists warn 75,000 Brits may die of Covid in grim forecast for next 5 months

Scientists have warned that up to 75,000 people could die from Covid in the next five months as the Omicron variant sweeps across the UK.

Experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said stricter coronavirus restrictions may be needed to prevent Omicron from causing a large number of hospitalizations and deaths.

Scientists, who advise the government, said the new Covid-19 strain could cause between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths in England over the next five months.

They used empirical data to look at how Omicron will transition as the country approaches 2022.

The experts, who also took part in the Scientific Group on Pandemic Influenza Modeling (SPI-M) or the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the new alternative could cause a large number of hospitalizations if more measures were not introduced.

They said that even if the booster injection was found to be highly effective against Omicron, a wave of infection could be expected that could lead to a peak of more than 2,000 daily hospital admissions.

Experts have called for more restrictions to avoid a higher number of Covid deaths in the coming months


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This means 175,000 hospitalizations and 24,700 deaths between December 1 of this year and April 30, 2022.

For this reason, the scientists said, further measures may need to be implemented in addition to the current Plan B presented by the government in England.

The team said that wearing masks, working from home, and booster strikes may not be enough, and projected that the number of daily hospital admissions would reach 2,400 in January.

In this scenario, implementing control measures as early as 2022 would be enough to significantly control the wave, reducing hospital admissions by 53,000 and deaths by 7,600.

They said measures such as restrictions on indoor hospitality, the closure of some entertainment venues and restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one place are needed.

In a pessimistic scenario – high immune escape from vaccines and lower efficacy of boosters – the scientists said there could be a peak in hospital admissions about twice the peak seen in January 2021, if no additional control measures are taken.

This could cause 492,000 people to be hospitalized and 74,800 deaths, according to the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

In this scenario, the team estimates that stronger measures may be needed to keep the peak number of hospitalizations below the January 2021 peak.

Scientists assumed that Omicron causes the same disease severity as Delta but they have not looked at the effect of measures such as population testing to control its spread.

People wearing face masks walking along Oxford Street in London


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They said in their paper: “These findings indicate that Omicron has the potential to cause significant increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in highly immunocompromised populations, including England.

“Additional non-pharmacological interventions may need to be reintroduced to prevent hospitalizations beyond levels seen in England during the previous peak in winter 2020-2021.”

Dr Rosanna Barnard, from the LSHTM Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases, who co-led the research, said: “More data over the next few weeks will enhance our knowledge of Omicron and its consequences for transmission in England.

“However, these early predictions help guide our understanding of the potential future in a rapidly evolving setting.

Scientists are now calling on the government to take tougher measures to counter the spread of Covid-19



“In our most optimistic scenario, the impact of Omicron will be reduced in the first part of 2022 through moderate control measures such as working from home.

“However, the most pessimistic scenario suggests that we may have to put up with stricter restrictions to ensure that the NHS is not overburdened.

“Masks, social distancing, and booster cakes are vital, but may not be enough.

“No one wants to put up with another lockdown but measures of last resort to protect health services may be needed if Omicron has a significant level of immune escape or increased transmissibility compared to Delta.

“It is important for decision makers to take into account the broader societal impact of these measures, not just epidemiology.”

A patient accesses a mobile drive through a Covid-19 testing center in Windsor


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Dr Nick Davies of CMMID, who co-led the new study, said: “These are early estimates, but they do suggest that Omicron, in general, is rapidly outperforming Delta by largely avoiding vaccines.”

“The enhanced program will significantly reduce Omicron’s impact in England,” he told a news briefing.

Dr Davies added that it was difficult to predict the true level of protection provided by two doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer, and urged people to get boosters.

The scientists made hypotheses about the levels of transmissibility and immune escape of omicron using data for “S” gene target failure (SGTF) data from cases in England.

These are the cases that are more likely to be Omicron because SGTF occurs with Omicron but not with the delta variant.

For the two immune escape scenarios considered, the team estimated that the Omicron variant was 10% less transmissible than the delta variant to 35% more transmissible than the delta variant.

Several experts have already said that Omicron is more portable and expect it to quickly overtake Delta as the dominant alternative.

Professor Eleanor Riley said it is likely that everyone will be exposed to Omicron in the coming weeks


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Earlier, Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases, said Omicron is spreading so fast that people are “very likely” to encounter someone with Covid-19 unless they are “living the life of a hermit.”

The University of Edinburgh academic also warned that “a lot of people” could end up in hospital even if the coronavirus mutation was shown to cause milder symptoms than the delta variant.

Professor Riley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Omicron is spreading really fast, and I think unless you’re living the life of a hermit, you’re very likely to come across in the next few weeks.

“I don’t think anyone should go around thinking they won’t get it, I think that has changed.”

She added, “There’s a lot of ‘if’ about this, ‘is it milder?'” “. I think it is very dangerous to compare the data from South Africa, for example, to the United Kingdom.

“Even if it is milder, and therefore, a smaller percentage of infected people end up in the hospital, since a lot of people will come across this virus, even a small percentage of a lot of people is a large number of people in hospital.”

On Friday, an analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines offer “significantly lower” levels of protection against symptomatic omicron infection than Delta.

But the UKHSA said a booster dose offered 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron, as they urged people to take their boosters.

The findings come as daily Covid-19 cases are at their highest level in nearly a year and the UKHSA has predicted that if current trends continue, the UK will surpass 1 million infections by the end of the month.

No. 10 confirmed there were “no plans” to move forward with the measures in England, amid reports that proposals were being drawn up for a Plan C, which includes stricter rules.

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