Covid will cause 10,000s of deaths yearly like flu, SAGE adviser says

Covid will cause 10,000s of deaths yearly like flu, SAGE adviser says

March 10, 2021

Covid will cause ‘tens of thousands of deaths’ every year, SAGE adviser says

  • Epidemiologist professor Andrew Hayward warned Covid will still cause deaths 
  • He says vaccines will reduce fatalities from 100,000s to 10,000s  like with flu
  • The UK has recorded 124,797 deaths in total since the pandemic began last year

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), says Covid will cause tens of thousands of deaths every year just like flu 

Coronavirus will kill tens of thousands of Britons every year just like flu, one of the Government’s top scientific advisers warned today.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a University College London epidemiologist and SAGE member, said vaccines would stop the UK from suffering another surge of 100,000 deaths when the virus inevitably bounces back.

But he claimed Covid — which experts fear will strike every winter — would continue to claim thousands of lives each year.

Daily Covid fatalities have plummeted since the start of 2021, with fewer than 200 new victims being recorded each day, on average. 

It has not been that low since the end of October, before the second wave took off.

Tough lockdowns have curbed the spread of the disease, causing deaths to plunge. And jabs have now started to kick in, saving thousands of lives.

Professor Hayward told Times Radio opening schools, then reopening shops and relaxing social rules are ‘very big steps’ and ‘we don’t really understand what impact they will have on transmission’.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he said there are ‘very sizeable numbers of people’ who are ‘vulnerable to ending up in hospital and dying’. 

He said: ‘And that’s still going to be the case for a while. 

‘Although the vaccines clearly take the extreme out of that, and will stop us getting hundreds of thousands of cases, there’s still possibilities for us to get tens of thousands of hospitalisations and very many deaths if we relax too quickly.’

He said he agreed that there needs to be a five-week period between steps and it is ‘right to take this cautious approach’.

Professor Hayward added: ‘It’s taken a long time for us to learn to be cautious in this respect; I don’t think it’s time to return to a more risky approach.’

Asked about a surge of infections in the winter, he said: ‘What the vaccine should do is take out the possibility of that surge leading to, say, over 100,000 deaths.

‘I think that’s unlikely… we’re going to be much more likely to be talking in the tens of thousands of deaths and hopefully in the low tens of thousands of deaths.

‘That sounds terrible but actually that’s not so dissimilar to what we put up with every year for flu and other respiratory infections.’

Around 10,000 people die from the flu in England and Wales every year, with as many as 20,000 dying in bad years. 

Vaccines aren’t 100 per cent effective, meaning people will still die — even if the risk is much lower.

And not everyone will opt-in to the roll-out, so millions of vulnerable Britons won’t be protected. Dangerous variants could also emerge in future, potentially making jabs much less effective. 

 

Professor Hayward’s comments come after Professor Chris Whitty claimed it was ‘perfectly realistic’ that tens of thousands more Brits could be killed by Covid this year.

England’s chief medical officer yesterday said the virus ‘will find’ people who either have not been vaccinated, or for whom the jab has not worked. He added that even flu claims up to 20,000 lives during a bad year.

But Professor Whitty yesterday said the scale of the next wave of the epidemic will be ‘nothing like what we’ve seen over the course of this winter’. 

More than 80,000 people have died since the second wave started gathering steam in September.

Professor Whitty maintained that slower was safer when it came to easing the curbs because it gives more time for the vaccine programme to get even wider coverage, telling MPs he would ‘strongly advise’ they stick to the cautious plan.

Batting away calls for lockdown to be loosened sooner, he warned: ‘If you open up too fast, a lot more people die – a lot more people die… I think it’s very easy to forget quite how quickly things can turn bad if you don’t keep a very, very close eye on it.’ 

Britain may not have to ‘learn to live with Covid’ because current crop of vaccines could stamp disease out to measles-like levels, top SAGE expert says 

Sage member Professor Devi Sridhar has said Britain will not have to live with Covid like flu because its prominence in society will be more like measles

Britain might not have to live with coronavirus in the future because the current crop of vaccines are so effective, a top Government scientist expert has claimed.

Most scientists agree that once the country jabs its way out of the pandemic, Covid will become a seasonal illness which puts pressure on the NHS every winter, like flu.

They have told Brits they must ‘learn to live with the virus’ and predict new jabs will have to be made annually to tackle new variants. 

But Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to the Scottish government, said the current jabs are so successful they could stamp the disease out to measles-like levels.

Britain might not have to live with coronavirus in the future because the current crop of vaccines are so effective, a top Government scientist expert has claimed.

Most scientists agree that once the country jabs its way out of the pandemic, Covid will become a seasonal illness which puts pressure on the NHS every winter, like flu.

They have told Brits they must ‘learn to live with the virus’ and predict new jabs will have to be made annually to tackle new variants. 

But Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to the Scottish government, said the current jabs are so successful they could stamp the disease out to measles-like levels. 

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in February there was ‘no reason we have to live with this virus or even see it as a seasonal flu’ because the vaccine is so effective.

She said: ‘A better analogy is probably measles, which is a virus that’s endemic in parts of the world. But we don’t accept living with measles here — we vaccinate against it.’

There were just 810 cases of measles in England and Wales in 2019, when the latest figures go up to, down from 989 the year before.  

Professor Sridhar added: ‘The UK should be aiming to suppress and eliminate Covid-19 through vaccines, mass testing and supported isolation.’

There were just 810 cases of measles in England and Wales in 2019, when the latest figures go up to, down from 989 the year before.  

Professor Sridhar added: ‘The UK should be aiming to suppress and eliminate Covid-19 through vaccines, mass testing and supported isolation.’

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