LONDON: As many as 85,000 people could die in the UK in a second wave of the coronavirus this winter, a leaked scientific document prepared for the government suggests. The paper by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by BBC Two’s Newsnight, says that some lockdown restrictions may have to be reintroduced and kept in place until March 2021, though it adds that schools are likely to remain open.
According to an Independent report, the document stresses that it is setting out a worst-case scenario and not a prediction of what is likely to happen, and says that there is “a wide range of uncertainty” about the actual outcome.
It was prepared in order to help the NHS and local authorities with planning for mortuaries and burial services to ensure they are not overwhelmed in the months ahead.
According to Newsnight, the document was drawn up on the assumption that schools will remain open and that the government’s tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40 per cent effective in cutting the spread of the coronavirus outside households.
It worked on the basis that in the case of a new spike in Covid-19, by November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre-March 2020 levels”.
The model found that in a worst-case scenario, there could be 81,000 excess deaths due to Covid-19 in England and Wales between July 2020 and March 2021, and 27,000 excess deaths from non-coronavirus causes.
In Scotland, there could be 2,600 deaths directly due to Covid-19, and 1,900 in Northern Ireland.
This would represent a significant increase in the number of fatalities compared with the first wave of the virus, which has so far claimed 41,486 lives, according to the official government tally.
The figures suggest that about 2.4 per cent of infected people could be hospitalised, though it said there was a wide range of possible outcomes, from 0.0 to 8.9 per cent. It suggested that 20.5 per cent of hospitalised patients could go into intensive care (range: 1.5 to 35.3 per cent), with 23.3 per cent of all hospitalised patients dying (range: 1.2 to 43.3 per cent).
The model also predicts an overall infection fatality ratio of 0.7 per cent (range: 0.0 to 9.7 per cent).
In response to the leaked report, a UK government spokesperson said: “As a responsible government, we have been planning and continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst-case scenario. “Our planning is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”