THE UK is facing a harsh winter battling Covid before the pandemic ends next year, an expert has warned.
Professor Linda Bauld thinks we may need more restrictions at some point, but has hope for 2022.
The UK is set for a hard winter, experts have warnedCredit: LNP
She said Britain expects to be “emerging from a pandemic which is an immediate risk to health”.
But the public health academic warned winter could be “difficult” and a new variant could curb our freedoms again.
Asked whether there could be more lockdowns in the autumn and winter, she told BBC Breakfast: “None of us has a crystal ball (but) I’m hopeful that will not be the case.
“I think we will see, for example, outbreaks and surges in localities and we may need a more targeted and local approach.
“I think the UK and a number of other countries are really looking ahead to the coming months and saying ‘well we’re going to have a difficult winter but if we can get through this, looking ahead to next year, I think we really will be emerging from the pandemic which is an immediate risk to health to everybody in an area, to an endemic situation with this virus’.
“And that is what all of us hope.”
She added: “We are probably going to need vaccines and boosters for the foreseeable future.”
Another expert sparked hope, saying those eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot and a simultaneous flu jab will be “as protected as they can be”.
Dr Chris Smith, consultant virologist and lecturer at Cambridge University, told the programme: “In the autumn all the usual seasonal suspects will rear their ugly heads again with people going back to school, people going back to work, this facilitates outbreaks and spread of infectious diseases and we see that every year and we’re expecting this year to be no different.
“But superimposed on that will be the risk of more coronavirus cases, but also flu.
“Flu has gone very quiet because of the measures we have taken to stop the spread of coronavirus we have seen very few cases of flu around the world.
“This is doing two things: firstly because people are not catching it, they are not topping up their natural immunity to flu so there are more vulnerable people in the population.
“Secondly we normally have a big network of thousands of laboratories collecting samples of the flu all around the world throughout the year which are fed back to the World Health Organisation, to work out what to do about a vaccine.
“Because flu has vanished off our radar screen we are much more resorting to guesswork in terms of what vaccines are going to have to do this year for flu.
“We think there is every reason to be more worried about the flu perhaps this year or into next year and it’s for that reason, because there is a bigger risk of flu, that they’re urging everybody (over the age of 50 and clinically vulnerable) to get vaccinated because vaccine does nevertheless confer some protection even if it’s not a perfect match with what turns out to be circulating.”
Last week we told how the government has drawn up plans for winter ‘firebreak’ lockdowns.
If the NHS risks being “tipped to the brink” restrictions during school holidays could be reintroduced, the i reports.
No. 10 is confident the vaccine rollout will stem Covid hospitalisations, but a surge in flu cases or staff shortages could put the health service under strain, it’s claimed.
Downing Street confirmed it has plans in place to reimpose “local, regional or national” Covid restrictions if necessary.