"All the modelling" suggests new Covid-19 surge in 2021, Chris Whitty tells MPs

9 March 2021, 11:33 | Updated: 9 March 2021, 13:11

By Asher McShane

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told MPs today that modelling suggests there will be a renewed Covid-19 surge in 2021.

Professor Whitty highlighted modelling data considered by the Sage scientific panel which suggests that even under the most optimistic set of assumptions, at least a further 30,000 Covid-19 deaths could occur.

He told MPs that the new surge will "find the people who either have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked."

Downing Street stressed the lockdown will be eased "gradually" after the warning from Professor Whitty.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are gradually in a very cautious way moving through the road map so that we have the time between steps to look at the impact lifting restrictions has had.

"The Prime Minister has been clear it is a cautious road map but he wants it to be irreversible."

Prof Whitty said modelling reflected the fact that it was a common virus and "even if you have a relatively small proportion of people still remaining vulnerable, that still equates to a very large number of people overall".

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That might include people for whom the vaccine is not effective, those who do not take it or those in younger groups who have not yet been offered a jab.

"What we are going to see is, as things are opening up, what all the modelling suggests is that at some point we will get a surge in virus," he said.

"We hope it doesn't happen soon, it might for example happen later in the summer if we open up gradually or because of the seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn and winter.

"Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die."

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the modelling was an "indication of general principles" rather than a specific prediction.

But the models demonstrated that "if you open up too fast, a lot more people die".

He told MPs that even opening up in a "steady way" such as in the road map would result in more deaths, but fewer than in a rushed release of restrictions.

"It is really important that we do not give any impression that what we are expecting is this just goes away and there is no further deaths.

"That is not realistic and I think to pretend that to the British public would be completely wrong."

The latest ONS figures show all regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths registered in the week to February 26.

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South-east England saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths registered: 481, down 24% from 636 in the previous week.

North-west England saw the second highest number: 396, down 30% from 563.

A total of 145,647 deaths had occurred in the UK by February 26 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

The daily death toll for the second wave peaked on January 19, when 1,459 deaths occurred.

During the first wave of the virus the death toll also peaked at 1,459 deaths, on April 8 2020.