England Could Face 75,000 Covid Deaths This Winter: Study
(Bloomberg) -- The omicron variant has the potential to cause a wave of Covid infections in England and fuel almost 75,000 deaths this winter, if the government doesn’t impose additional precautionary control measures, according to a research report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Under the government’s ‘Plan B’ rules imposed last week in response to omicron, the most optimistic scenario for England indicates about 175,000 hospital admissions and 24,700 deaths for the five-month period from December to April. The worst-case projection is for 74,800 deaths. That is more than half the 127,154 fatalities registered in England since the start of the pandemic. England accounts for more than two thirds of almost 172,000 deaths in all of the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The research is not yet peer reviewed, LSHTM said on its website.
“The team used the latest experimental data on the antibody-evading characteristics of the omicron variant to explore plausible scenarios for the immune escape of omicron,” LSHTM said on its website.
The report recommended restrictions on indoor hospitality, gathering sizes and the closure of some entertainment venues that could lower the projected hospitalizations by 53,000 and deaths by 7,600. The government’s Plan B encourages people to work from home and requires mask wearing on public transportation and when visiting retail businesses. Bars and restaurants are exempt from the mask rules, while nightclubs and other large venues will be required to check vaccination status.
“Mask-wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough,” said Dr. Rosanna Barnard from LSHTM’s Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID).
The U.K. reported more than 58,000 new Covid infections on Friday, marking the highest level since January. Before omicron was first detected in the country two weeks ago, the delta variant was driving a surge in infections, despite the U.K. having one of the most successfully vaccination programs in the world. More than 80% of the adult population has had two shots and the government imposed the Plan-B rules to try to buy time to speed its booster program. Almost 40% of adults have received a third shot.
Meanwhile, U.K. Health Security Agency officials have advised ministers that “stringent national measures” should be taken by December 18 to avoid hospitalizations surpassing last winter’s peak, the Guardian reported. Further measures, referred to as Plan C, could include stricter isolation rules for people exposed to Covid and further limits on visitors to care homes and hospitals, mask wearing in pubs, and a hospitality shut-down, wrote the Guardian.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be mulling additional measures, but is already facing growing opposition from conservative lawmakers to restrictions, especially during the holiday period.
“We absolutely need to keep everything under review,” Cabinet minister Michael Gove told broadcasters on Friday after he led an emergency meeting with leaders of the devolved U.K. nations. The meeting was “presented with some very challenging new information” and the country is facing a “deeply concerning situation,” he said.
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