Grim new forecasting has pointed to the need for even tighter restrictions (Picture: Getty/AFP)
As many as 75,000 could be killed by the Omicron variant this winter unless new measures are rolled out.
New modelling said even an optimistic scenario would see a peak of more than 2,000 daily hospital admissions, with 175,000 hospital admissions and 24,700 deaths between December 1 this year and April 30, 2022.
Experts looked at how the pandemic could grow depending on what rules are in place and how the variant – which is still not fully understood – responds to existing vaccines.
They said measures over and above Plan B restrictions unveiled this week could be needed to deal with the new strain as we head into the new year.
The dire warning comes from experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who also sit on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) or the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
The team said mask-wearing, working from home and booster jabs may not be enough to keep a lid on the spread and predict a peak of daily hospital admissions of 2,400 in January.
In this scenario, bringing in control measures early in 2022 would be sufficient to substantially control the wave, reducing hospital admissions by 53,000 and deaths by 7,600.
Compulsory mask-wearing and Covid passes are already being brought in but the government has left the door open to more in coming weeks and months (Picture: Anadolu)
Measures considers in the study include things like restrictions on indoor hospitality, the closure of some entertainment venues and restrictions on how many people can gather in one place.
The most pessimistic scenario looked at by the modellers was if Omicron turns out to have high immune escape from vaccines and the boosters aren’t as effective as is hoped.
In these circumstances, a wave of infection is likely to lead to a peak in hospital admissions around twice as high as the peak seen in January 2021, if no additional control measures are taken.
This could cause 492,000 hospital admissions and 74,800 deaths, according to the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Dr Rosanna Barnard, who co-led the research, said: ‘In our most optimistic scenario, the impact of Omicron in the early part of 2022 would be reduced with mild control measures such as working from home.
City centres are already quieter as companies shift back to working from home for the foreseeable future (Picture: SWNS)
‘However, our most pessimistic scenario suggests that we may have to endure more stringent restrictions to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed.
‘Mask-wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough.
‘Nobody wants to endure another lockdown but last-resort measures may be required to protect health services if Omicron has a significant level of immune escape or otherwise increased transmissibility compared to Delta.
‘It is crucial for decision-makers to consider the wider societal impact of these measures, not just the epidemiology.’
Number 10 has maintained there are ‘no plans’ to go further with measures in England, amid reports that proposals are being drawn up for a Plan C, featuring even tougher rules.
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