Some 85,000 Brits could die and 100,000 infected with coronavirus every day this winter, experts have warned.
A leaked report from the Scientific Advisory Board for Emergencies (SAGE) reveals a potential worst-case scenario that could see the UK crippled by a devastating wave of Covid-19 over the coldest months.
The dire doomsday prediction is no longer a working assumption for how the pandemic will unfold, but it remains a sobering possibility after a study revealed close to a million Brits have the virus on any one day.
The study by Imperial College London was based on random swab testing of 86,000 people in England between October 16 and 25.
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The Government has been urged to take immediate action to try to bring down the R rate – currently at almost 1.6 – down to below one, which will indicate coronavirus is finally retreating.
"We estimate 960,000 individuals are harbouring SARS-CoV-2 virus in England on any one day," the report said.
"Whether via regional or national measures, it is now time-critical to control the virus and turn R below one if further hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 are to be avoided."
The Imperial College study found there are probably around 96,000 new infections a day, close to the levels seen back in March.
The SAGE documents forecast that 365,000 Covid-19 patients may have to be hospitalised in a "large winter peak" lasting all the way until the end of March 2021, the Spectator reports.
The doomsday warning was published back in July 30 when cases had abated somewhat.
It recommended that restrictions be tightened to prevent household mixing until next spring, although schools could still remain open under the proposed measures.
The document claimed Covid-19 deaths would peak at approximately 800 a day by late February. It also estimated 25,000 people could be hospitalised — with 5,000 in intensive care — in England by March.
A separate study reportedly estimated 120,000 excess deaths over this winter.
The bleak predictions were, however, made months ago and could well be proven wrong, just as the most pessimistic forecasts during the first wave did not come true.
That being said, the number of daily deaths in Britain is currently exceeding 200, a number health experts had initially predicted for the middle of November.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is continuing to resist calls to put the country back into a nationwide lockdown due to the economic impact.
This week SAGE warned that every region of England will have an infection rate over that of Tier 3 areas by Christmas and harsh social distancing laws will need to be in place.
This has poured cold water on hopes that Mr Johnson might grant families a reprieve from the tiered system over the festive period.
In total, the UK has recorded 942,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 45,675 people have died.
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