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Britain might see as much as 120,000 extra coronavirus deaths this winter, scientists warn

A rehab support representative checks patient notes as the first patients are admitted to the NHS Seacole Center at Headley Court in Surrey, a disused military hospital that was rebuilt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Victoria Jones | PA pictures via Getty Images

The British government has to prepare for a possible new wave of Covid-19 infections, which could be more serious than the first, a group of scientists said, warning that the country could suffer nearly 120,000 more coronavirus deaths this winter.

In a report released on Tuesday, an advisory group of 37 experts from the Academy of Medical Sciences emphasized that "intensive preparation" was urgently required in the rest of July and August to reduce the risk of overloading the National Health Service this winter.

Their modeling suggests that Covid-19 infections in the UK will increase again in the fall and peak in January and February, the busiest time of the year for the NHS.

In the worst case, according to the experts, 119,900 further deaths could occur in the hospital this winter – at least twice as many as in the first wave.

The models do not take into account the use of drugs, treatments or potential vaccines. It also excludes deaths in nursing homes and in the community.

To date, the United Kingdom has registered more than 291,000 coronavirus cases with 44,915 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The "Preparing for a Challenging Winter 2020/2021" report was asked by Patrick Vallance, the UK government's key scientific advisor, to model a "reasonable" worst-case scenario.

"The modeling suggests that deaths with a new wave of Covid-19 could be higher this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we acted immediately," said Stephen Holgate, a respiratory scientist the NHS Foundation Trust of the University Hospital Southampton. said in the report.

"Given the relatively small number of Covid 19 cases currently, this is an important time window to prepare us for the worst that winter will bring," he added.

Holgate, chairman of the report, said the results are not a prediction of what is likely to happen, but a scenario of what could happen if the virus skyrockets and little is done to protect the NHS and social services .

"Lose profits"

The report calls for a public information campaign, a restructuring of health and social care facilities to ensure Covid 19-free zones, and an increase in the capacity of the country's "Test, Trace and Isolate" program.

The UK government should also consider a "comprehensive, real-time, population-wide surveillance system to monitor and manage a winter wave."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a daily briefing on the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on June 3, 2020.

Andrew Parsons | 10 Downing St | via Reuters

Health experts have previously said that they expect cooler winter weather conditions to trigger more intense transmission of Covid-19 infection and that the disease is "very likely" to have a seasonal pattern similar to other coronaviruses.

In winter, people spend more time in enclosed spaces with less ventilation and less personal space than in summer.

Respiratory infections such as coronaviruses are transmitted by droplets that are released when a person coughs or sneezes. And health experts say that colder and drier conditions in winter greatly affect the transmission of flu-like diseases.

The World Health Organization said last week that it is also reviewing new evidence whether the coronavirus can spread through airborne particles.

"Every winter, the number of people admitted to hospital and the number of people dying in the UK increases," said Anne Johnson, professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at University College London and vice president of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

"This is due to a combination of seasonal infections such as flu and the effects of colder weather, such as heart and lung diseases," continued Johnson. "This winter, we need to consider the likelihood of another wave of coronavirus infections and the ongoing effects of the first wave. We need to be prepared for the fact that we could experience a flu epidemic this year."

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaks during a daily press conference on the COVID-19 virus on March 11, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

WHO previously warned world leaders that the pandemic is still not under control and is getting worse.

At a press conference at the Geneva Health Office headquarters on Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Let me be blunt, too many countries are going in the wrong direction."

He said it appeared that many countries "lost profits" because best risk mitigation measures were either not implemented or followed.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 13.1 million people were infected with the coronavirus on Tuesday. 573,042 people worldwide died from the virus.

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