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Second coronavirus wave in the winter could claim 120,000 lives

A SECOND wave of coronavirus infections this winter could be more serious than the first, with 120,000 hospital deaths a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’, scientists have warned.

Action is needed now to reduce the risk, says a report from the Academy of Medical Sciences, commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Test and trace should be stepped up and a ‘rapid system of monitoring’ put in place to stop local outbreaks, said study leader Prof Stephen Holgate (pictured).

He also said flu vaccinations for the vulnerable, and health and social care workers, would help prevent normal winter pressures on the health service from making a potential crisis worse.

Hospitals could see 120,000 deaths between September and June, according to the report from 37 experts. The figure is based on the R rate — how many others each infected person typically passes the virus to — reaching 1.7 from September.

Prof Holgate stressed that the grim outcome — which leaves aside the prospect of deaths in care homes and the wider community — is ‘not a prediction but a possibility’.

If the R rate was 1.1 — slightly higher than now — there would be only about 1,300 hospital fatalities from the virus, the researchers found.

With an R rate of 1.5 there could be around 74,800 deaths.

Prof Holgate said: ‘With relatively low numbers of cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us.’

Dame Anne Johnson, of University College London, called for a ‘powerful public information campaign’. ‘Everybody needs to realise that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away,’ she added.

She said having the ‘right level of heating and ventilation in our homes’ would help to control the virus, along with continued social distancing measures.