The UK is being urged to gear up for a “period of intense preparation” for winter which might see a resurgence of COVID-19.
A report, by the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) has outlined a “worst-case scenario” should a second wave of coronavirus strike when the weather gets colder.
The experts, led by Professor Stephen Holgate, have estimated there could be as many as 251,000 of virus-related deaths in hospitals alone should a second wave of the virus strike.
The estimation has been based upon an assumption that transmission rate (R value) will rise to 1.7 from this September, which would be more than half of the initial level of transmission which was experienced in early March 2020.
Research has suggested that the virus survives longer in colder conditions and is more likely to spread when people spend more time indoors.
Professor Holgate, who is a Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said: “The peak of coronavirus infection in the winter could be more serious than the one we’ve just been through.”
The group has also identified how seasonal influenza, otherwise known as the flu, and the cold weather could also have a severe impact on the health of the nation. They said it is hard to estimate the “size and severity” for this year, but 2017/18 was particularly significant with more than 17,000 respiratory deaths.
The authors write: “There is a need for urgent preparation to mitigate the risks of a particularly challenging winter.”
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The group has made a series of recommendations to help the health service prepare, such as introducing routine testing for COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory viruses which they say will be “important for surveillance, treatment decisions and reducing rates of transmission”.
They have also suggested reorganising health and social care staff and facilities to maintain separate COVID-19-free zones.