BRITAIN is heading into the biggest wave of Covid infections it has ever seen as restrictions are eased today, one expert has warned.
Cases are rising across the UK but ministers and scientists alike have said there is “no perfect time” to lift the remaining set of restrictions in the UK.
Restrictions have eased today with night clubs opening and people having to take personal responsibility for their decisionsCredit: AFP
Professor Andrew Hayward today warned that there will be more hospitalisations as we unlock the countryCredit: Sky
While millions of Brits are now double jabbed there is still the risk of infection and experts have said people should remain cautious after so-called Freedom Day.
Professor Andrew Hayward, from University College London and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers said: “We are heading into the biggest wave of Covid infection that we have ever seen
“Even though the vaccine will substantially reduce the number of deaths and hospitalisations, it’s still likely that we will see somewhere in the low tens of thousands of deaths even if we are cautious.
“And that could move into the mid and high tens of thousands of deaths if we just went back to normal activity”, he told Sky News.
He added that remaining cautious would be a “key thing” when it comes to the unlocking of legal restrictions.
“So I think this remaining cautious is really a key thing in this unlocking of legal restrictions.”
Covid cases have risen by 100 per cent in a fortnight with a further 48,161 infections reported on Sunday.
Cases are up 53 per cent on last week’s total of 31,282 – and well over double the 23,858 infections reported a fortnight ago on July 4.
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Prof Hayward added that going forward with no restrictions and not having any controls on transmission will lead to an “extraordinary” number of cases.
He explained: “If we have uncontrolled transmission then we will have an extraordinary high number of cases.
“There’s already at the moment about one in 100 of us carrying the infection; at the height of the pandemic it got to about one in 50.
“We would expect to be above that and remain high for a long period of time.
“And so, even if only a very small proportion of people who are infected die, a very small proportion of a huge number is still a very big number and an even higher number of hospitalisations.”
It comes as it was revealed that UK Covid deaths are a fraction of what they were in previous waves prompting the government to push ahead with Freedom Day plans.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that, despite a rise in cases, the seven-day rolling daily death rate is just 40, compared to 654 on December 26 when infection rates were about the same.
That brings the UK’s Covid death count to just 6 per cent – or one sixteenth of what they were when during previous peaks.
Despite Prof Hayward’s comments, ministers are confident that the UK won’t re enter into restrictions later on in the year.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the government was “doing the right thing” by lifting all Covid measures today – despite grim predictions over the weekend of 100,000 daily cases later this summer.
Almost all Covid restrictions have ended today as part of ‘Freedom Day‘, with mask mandates scrapped, social distancing guidelines shelved and large-scale events back on.
Asked if he was confident that restrictions wouldn’t return later this year, Zahawi said: “I think we are.
“I certainly don’t want to see restrictions returning”.
It follows warnings from scientific advisers and former cabinet ministers that the country could see a spike in hospitalisations as cases surge.
Former health minister Jeremy Hunt on Saturday claimed that restrictions would have to be reimposed if daily hospital admission exceed the peak of the first wave.
But Zahawi stressed that now was the right time to unlock – though Brits should remain “vigilant” and “careful” as they enjoy their new freedoms.