As national discussion turns to the new so-called 'freedom day' on 19 July, when restrictions like mandatory mask wearing and limits on socialising are set to lift, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has given a stark prediction for the coming months.
Currently, despite daily Covid cases rising sharply in the UK, the easing of restrictions is providing something to look forward to for many people. The government maintains that at this stage, the roadmap step looks feasible still due to the successful vaccination rollout severely disrupting the link between cases and consequently hospitalisations and deaths.
While the success of the vaccination programme is of course something to be celebrated, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has made comments cautioning the idea that long-term normality is imminent.
Speaking yesterday (6 July) to journalists, Professor Whitty suggested public health officials should be braced for at least two further waves of infection, The Times reported.
“A lot of this is going to be around dealing with the next wave and what I think for the NHS will be quite a difficult winter. I think there’ll almost certainly be a Covid surge and that will be on top of a return to a more normal respiratory surge," he said, referencing illnesses like flu and pneumonia which tend to flare up in the UK population in winter.
He then stated his predication that "normality" isn't likely to return until well into 2022.
“It’s going to take quite a long time I think to get back to a normality and I certainly would be surprised if we got back to what most of us see as a kind of status quo before the next spring," Professor Whitty said.
Currently, over 86% of the adult population in the UK have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, while 64% have received both doses, giving a much increased level of protection against the virus, in comparison to previous waves of infections.
While that's reassuring, Professor Whitty has also reminded that people will still be badly affected by Covid in spite of this, and has specifically warned about long Covid in younger members of the population.
“I think that people who get the Delta variant and are unvaccinated are likely to have long Covid at roughly the same rates as people of the same age and gender as would have happened in any previous wave,” he said, referencing the new, more transmissible, dominant variant in the UK.
“Since there’s a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up, I regret to say I think that we will get a significant amount more long Covid, particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower. We don’t know how big of an issue it’s going to be but I think we should assume it’s not going to be trivial.”
While these comments are certainly not what any of us want to hear, knowledge is power and being aware of what's potentially around the corner is important in everyone taking the appropriate steps to keep ourselves and each other safe. For more information, support and advice on Covid, visit the NHS's website.
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