Coronavirus UK news update – 3rd covid wave WON'T overwhelm NHS despite Boris 'never-ending lockdown' fears, experts say

THE UK's looming third wave of coronavirus simply doesn't risk overwhelming the NHS like the first two could have done, top experts have revealed.

Modelling by Imperial College London academics, who have previously provided some of our more ominous forecasts, said even with lockdown measures fully lifted in June, deaths would remain in the double digits.

The low numbers are due to the UK's brilliant vaccine rollout which means the overwhelming our most vulnerable citizens should have some protection when the third wave does inevitably hit our shores.

While every death is a tragedy, those kind of numbers suggest the NHS would be more than able to cope with the number of increased hospitalisations, meaning lockdown measures are no longer necessary.

Modelling suggests even at the peak of the third wave, covid patients would take up around 5,000 hospital beds across the country – far fewer than the 30,000 beds we saw at the peak of the coronavirus crisis in January.

The modelling comes as the government was blasted for providing a grim vision of the next 12 months in which social distancing, twice-weekly covid testing and mandatory mask wearing could be required.

Scaling back some of his positive messaging around June 21 being "freedom day", Boris Johnson did insist his lockdown roadmap was still on track at a press conference last night.

But earlier in the day data released by the government suggested the June 21 date could spark a fourth wave of coronavirus in the country by late summer / early Autumn.

The earlier the country unlocks, the worse the fourth wave will be, the report produced by the government's SAGE advisory panel suggested.

SAGE also suggested social distancing and mask wearing would need to remain in place until this time next year- and said it only had "reasonable confidence' that Covid will be manageable by spring 2022.

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic


  • John Hall


    Requiring holidaymakers returning from low-risk countries to pay for two coronavirus tests will only reopen international travel "for people who can afford it", the boss of easyJet has warned.

    Chief executive Johan Lundgren claimed passengers should not face "more complexities and cost" for visiting "green" destinations.

    Yesterday, the Government unveiled the outline of a traffic light system for enabling overseas leisure travel to resume as part of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

    Quizzed on the proposals, Mr Lundgren told BBC Breakfast: "It should not be needed to put any more complexities and cost in order to travel to and from those destinations."

    He said PCR tests are "way over and above what the cost is of an average easyJet fare".

  • John Hall


    Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Spi-M modelling group which advises the Government, said "there may well be" a third wave in the UK but probably not as high as some modelling predicts.

    He told LBC radio: "I think we do have very high levels of vaccination now, we do need to remember this, we are protecting our vulnerable.

    "But the vaccines are not 100% protective so when we switch from an R number less than 1 that we have at the moment, to a lot of mixing later on, we may get a resurgence.

    "I don't expect we will have a resurgence of the same scale that we saw in January."

  • John Hall


    Professor Walport, added "very good progress" was being made on the road map – but a third wave was possible if the brakes are taken off completely.

    He said: "It's clear that we're making good progress along the road map, and it's entirely appropriate that the first set of restrictions are being relaxed so that makes very good sense indeed.

    "But we're a long way from taking the brakes off completely. The vaccine rollout is going incredibly well… we've seen deaths fall fairly precipitously…

    "This is all very good news, but we've only got to look across the Channel and see that France currently has over 39,000 new cases a day, so the virus is still very much around and if we take all the brakes off, then it's quite clear that there is a very substantial risk of a further wave of infection."

  • John Hall


    Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of SAGE, told BBC Breakfast it could take a few years to get back to normal completely.

    Asked how long social distancing and face masks might be part of people's lives, he said: "We've lived with flu for many years, and we are unfortunately going to have to live with coronavirus, but we know that over time it will change its relationship with us in the sense that more humans will be immune."

    He said flu in a bad year can kill up to 20,000 people "and so, unfortunately, this is another of the infections that particularly kills more vulnerable, elderly people.

    "I suspect we're going to have to live with some measure of social restrictions at least throughout this year, and we'll see, hopefully next year we'll be more and more normal, and in a couple of years we should return to complete normality."

  • John Hall


    Labour has said the use of so-called vaccine passports in the UK would be "discriminatory".

    Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast the party was "very sceptical" and wanted more details about how they would work.

    "I'm not going to support a policy that, here in my Leicester constituency, if someone wants to go into Next or H&M, they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone, on an app.

    "I think that's discriminatory."

  • John Hall


    The Moderna vaccine will be in deployment "around the third week of April", vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed.

    "It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well," he told BBC Breakfast.

    "And of course more volume of Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca and we have got other vaccines. We have got the Janssen – Johnson and Johnson – vaccine coming through as well.

    "So I am confident that we will be able to meet our target of mid-April offering the vaccine to all over-50s and then end of July offering the vaccine to all adults."

  • Dan Keane


    Professor Graham Medley from the LSHTM, chairman of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), which advises the Government, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a third wave could result in more deaths.

    He said the three independent models – published by Sage – LSHTM, Warwick and Imperial College London – "show that, as we open up, as the virus starts to transmit some more, and because the vaccine isn't 100% safe, then it's almost inevitable that we will see some increase in infections, and potentially hospitalisations and deaths".

    He said the LSHTM modelling was "quite a pessimistic view" but "it is plausible, it's not extreme".

  • John Hall


    Mr Zahawi said that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) looked "very closely" at reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines.

    Asked about reports that regulators are considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford jab in younger people, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: "The regulators absolutely look at, very closely, any adverse incidents through the yellow card system.

    "And June Raine, who is the chief executive of the MHRA, our independent regulator, said last night that if you get the invite for the vaccine to take that invitation and get the vaccine and get protected.

    "At the same time, they are looking at these very rare instances of blood clotting. To put it in perspective, we have done almost 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    "Both vaccines have saved something like 6,300 lives between December and the end of February, so it's important to continue to follow what the clinicians, the scientists, the regulators tell us."

  • John Hall


    On international use of vaccine passports, Mr Zahawi told Sky News: "It's important that we make sure that, operationally, that the protocols are designed and work in a way that is really advantageous to our citizens.

    "Which is why the taskforce, looking at this, is working through those protocols, at the same time as the NHS is operationally making it viable.

    "So if people do need their certificate, if and when it is appropriate for them to travel, then they will be able to have that certification available to them.

    "Use of certification domestically does throw up a number of difficult ethical questions, which is why Michael Gove has been consulting with businesses, with stakeholders, with colleagues in Parliament, so that we listen to all sorts of views."

  • John Hall


    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that MPs will be able to vote on the use of domestic vaccine passports should the Government decide to roll them out.

    Asked if MPs will get a vote, Mr Zahawi told Times Radio: "We haven't even got to the stage where we have decided what we want to do on this domestically, because there are so many issues that do need careful consideration.

    "Michael Gove is consulting with all stakeholders, including Parliamentarians, so we are not there yet.

    "But the Prime Minister made it very clear, if we do get to that place, then of course we will go to Parliament for a vote."

  • John Hall


    Boris Johnson said he plans to stick "like glue" to his plan for easing restrictions despite scientific advisers warning it could create a wave of Covid infections akin to that seen during spring last year.

    The Prime Minister confirmed shops, hairdressers and pub beer gardens will reopen from April 12 in England and urged the public against complacency when it came to obeying the rules.

    Mr Johnson, setting out the move to the second step of the road map on Monday, said the shift was "fully justified by the data" and that he had seen "nothing" to make him think he would have to "deviate" from his intention to scrap all restrictions by June 21 at the earliest.

    His comments come despite modelling from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showing that, while stage two of the unlocking is unlikely to exert pressure on the NHS, the proposed changes for May and June when social mixing is set to be permitted again could cause hospital admissions to rise to levels seen during January's winter peak.

  • John Hall


    The family of a 'hugely loved' nurse who died from Covid-19 have been given a cast of her hand as a tribute from a colleague who worked with her.

    Estrella Catalan, 52, worked as a staff nurse in the emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) before succumbing to coronavirus in February this year.

    Mrs Catalan had worked at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for more than 18 years and her death triggered an overwhelming reaction from both members of the public and those that knew her.

    Her family have now been given a cast of Mrs Catalan's hand as part of a moving tribute from Sarah Cowles, an assistant theatre practitioner in emergency theatres at the N&N.

  • John Hall


    North Korea will not attend this year's Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyongyang's sports ministry said, blowing the final whistle on Seoul's hopes of using the Games to restart talks with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

    The isolated North's participation in the last Winter Games, hosted by the South in Pyeongchang, was a key catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

    Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong attended as his envoy in a blaze of publicity, and the South's President Moon Jae-in seized the opportunity to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington that led to a series of high-profile meetings between Kim and then US president Donald Trump.

    But Pyongyang's announcement puts an end to Seoul's hopes of using the postponed Tokyo Games, due to begin in July, to kick off a reset in the now deadlocked talks process.

  • John Hall


    New Zealand will allow quarantine-free visits by Australians from April 19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday, creating a "travel bubble" for the neighbouring nations which have closed borders to the rest of the world to eradicate Covid-19.

    Though most Australian states have allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, New Zealand has continued mandatory quarantine from its neighbour, citing concern about small outbreaks there.

    The virus has effectively been eradicated in both countries, with minor outbreaks coming from quarantined returned travellers.

  • John Hall


    Government-backed loans of up to £10 million are to be made available for companies that need support until the end of the year.

    As announced in the Budget last month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has opened the Treasury's Recovery Loan Scheme to tide businesses over, with past Covid-19 lending schemes due to run out.

    From Tuesday April 6, the new finance initiative will replace the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and its larger sibling CLBILS.

    The Treasury has promised to cover 80% of what banks lend if businesses do not pay back their loans.

    Mr Sunak said: "We have stopped at nothing to protect jobs and livelihoods throughout the pandemic and as the situation has evolved we have ensured that our support continues to meet businesses' needs. As we safely reopen parts of our economy, our new Recovery Loan Scheme will ensure that businesses continue to have access to the finance they need as we move out of this crisis."

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