Covid hospital admissions could reach more than 6,000 per day in months, SAGE warns

Scientists have warned of a “rough winter” as Covid-related hospital admissions are expected to surge over the coming months

Covid-related hospital admissions could rise from a few hundred up to more than 6,000 per day within months, government scientific advisors have warned.

University modelling provided to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling Operational Sub Group (SPI-M-O), part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), shows that if the R infection rate reaches 1.5per day, hospital admissions could soar over the coming months.

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At a glance: 5 Key Points

  • SPI-M-O predicts a potential large jump in the number of people admitted to hospitals with Covid-19, ranging from a few hundred to more than 6,000 per day following the return of schools and more people going back to workplaces.
  • Optimistic scenarios predict up to 2,000 coronavirus cases per day in England within the next few months.
  • Government scientific advisors suggest a light set of measures, including mask-wearing and working from home, to be enforced to help curb the increasing infection rate sooner rather than later.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is continuing with his Covid winter plan. Plan A includes booster vaccinations for over the 50s, as well as vulnerable people and vaccinations for 12-15 year-olds, while Plan B incorporates stricter measures for vaccine passports, mask-wearing and advice to work from home.
  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid defended not bringing in more stringent measures now, as the Government's winter plan says vaccines, boosters and new treatments offer "a very strong" package and denied that the UK is in the same position as last year.

What's been said

SPI-M-O said there is "potential for another large wave of hospitalisations” heading into winter and while the relationship between Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations has changed due to vaccination, a spike in infections is a clear warning that hospital admissions are likely to rise.

Sage said: “If combined with other winter pressures or seasonal effects, this could lead to a difficult few months for the health and care sector.”

“There is a clear consensus that continued high levels of homeworking has played a very important role in preventing sustained epidemic growth in recent months.

“It is highly likely that a significant decrease in homeworking in the next few months would result in a rapid increase in hospital admissions.”

Background

The Covid winter plan splits into two parts, with a ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’ prepared in the event of a surge in hospitalisations.

Plan A revolves around booster jabs for the over-50s and vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds, while Plan B could see vaccine passports introduced, alongside face masks in public places and working from home.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which feeds into the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the number of contacts people had per week has increased to the highest number for a year, mostly down to people having to go into work and the likelihood is, with the combination of seasonal viruses emerging, Covid-19 cases will continue to rise.

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