England could see high levels of coronavirus deaths until at least spring 2021, an expert has warned.
Professor Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, said the new tier system is unlikely to cause cases and deaths to fall quickly.
This could put the NHS under strain in the coming months.
Prof Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said: “The concern at the moment is that even if the measures adopted in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas slow spread in the next few weeks, they are unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly.
“Modelling from all the academic groups informing Sage suggests that this could leave the country with high levels of COVID circulation, healthcare demand and mortality for several months, at least until spring 2021.”
Watch: UK coronavirus deaths rise
The prime minister is under increasing pressure to lock the country down amid forecasts from scientific advisers that the second wave of COVID will be deadlier than the first.
Daily COVID deaths in the UK were at their highest since May on Tuesday, and hospitals have been forced to cancel surgery as beds fill up.
Daily deaths are not expected to be as high as during the first wave but will continue for a longer period of time, according to internal analysis from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the Telegraph reported.
Sage has warned that the whole of England may need a Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown by mid-December, which would hamper Boris Johnson’s hopes to ease certain restrictions at Christmas.
A former chief scientific adviser to the government said the number of people in hospital with COVID could more than double within weeks.
Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of Sage, said it was “not unrealistic” to say there could be 25,000 people in hospital by the end of November.
Prof Walport told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the UK is “still relatively early in the second wave”.
The comments come as some hospitals have announced measures to cope with additional pressures from the virus.
COVID-focused Nightingale hospitals in northern England were put on standby earlier this month as a result of rising cases.
Meanwhile, more than 50 Tory backbench MPs have written to the PM calling for a “clear road map” out of lockdown restrictions in northern England.
In a letter, the group representing northern constituencies warned the pandemic is threatening Johnson’s election pledge to “level-up” the country.
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