Independent Sage expert warns UK’s winter COVID crisis is ‘going to get a lot worse’
Prof Christina Pagel says impact of Christmas mixing will ‘hit next week’
That will be on top of dire numbers posted on Tuesday, which saw record number of UK infections
An expert has warned the UK’s winter coronavirus crisis is “going to get a lot worse” due to mixing over Christmas.
Independent Sage Professor Christina Pagel said “understandable” household mixing over the festive period will translate into increased infections, hospitalisations and deaths from next week.
That would be on top of the already dire numbers posted in recent days, including a record 53,135 lab-confirmed infections in the UK on Tuesday and record COVID-19 hospitalisations in five of England’s seven NHS regions.
Prof Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, told an Independent Sage briefing on Wednesday: “The impact of Christmas is still to come.
“We know there was a lot of Christmas mixing – understandably – last week. The impact of that will hit next week and will come on top of the situation that we are already in.”
Up until 19 December, the government had planned to allow three households to mix between 23 and 27 December.
However, that changed due to a rapid spread of infections, particularly in the South East, as a result of a new coronavirus variant that is said to be up to 70% more transmissible.
Boris Johnson announced that households in Tier 1, 2 and 3 areas could only mix on Christmas Day, while no mixing whatsoever was allowed in Tier 4 areas.
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On the same night as Johnson’s announcement, London’s train stations were packed with passengers, and Prof Pagel said a number of people would have mixed over the wider Christmas period anyway due to the “very late change” by the government.
She continued: “All we can say for sure is that it’s going to get a lot worse. Because we don’t know what people actually did at Christmas.
“How many people followed the guidelines, how many people didn’t? I’m sure there will be some, especially people who had already made plans and were then asked to change very late on by the government.”
Prof Pagel added “we are flying a bit blind” because it is not known how many people left the South East and potentially spread the new variant of the virus.
“It makes me really worried,” she added.
It comes as public health experts urged people to restrict mixing over the coming days, with this chart demonstrating how people who were infected with COVID over Christmas are likely to be more infectious over the New Year.
Later on Wednesday, health secretary Matt Hancock is due to announce changes to England’s tier system in the House of Commons. A majority of the country is expected to be moved into the most restrictive Tier 4.
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