The UK coronavirus outbreak will last until next spring and could lead to 7,9 million people hospitalized, reveals a secret Public Health England briefing for senior NHS officials.
The document, reports the British newspaper The Guardian, is the signal that the British health leaders have admitted to expect a long and painful crisis for the UK national health service.
The report reported by The Guardian newspaper, which beat other UK newspapers, also suggests that British health chiefs are prepared to see 80% of Britons infected with the coronavirus within a year.
Professor Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical advisor, previously described that figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the true number would have been lower. However, the briefing makes it clear that four out of five Brits "should" contract the virus.
80% of Brits infected, millions of Brits in hospital.
The document, which also cites some scientific papers, states: “It is expected that 80% of the population will be infected with Covid-19. In the next 12 months up to 15% (7,9 million people) could require hospitalization ".
The briefing exposes the latest official thought on how severely the infection could affect both the health of the public and that of personnel in critical services such as the NHS, police, firefighters and transportation.
It was drawn up in these days and approved by Dr. Susan Hopkins, the main official dealing with the epidemic. It was shared with hospital heads and senior doctors from the English health service.
“For the public to know that it could last for 12 months, it would cause a lot of reactions and great concern,” he says Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.
“A year is entirely plausible. But the number of hospitalized people needs to be explored better, ”added Hunter, an expert in the epidemiology of infectious diseases.
"The coronavirus will last a year: it will go away, then it will come back"
“I think it will vanish in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, as the usual seasonal flu does. It will remain forever, but will become less severe over time as immunity increases ", he added.
The admission that the virus will continue to cause problems for another year seems to undermine hopes that the arrival of a warmer climate this summer will definitely kill him.
The document also reveals that about 500.000 of the 5 million people deemed vital because they work "in essential services and critical infrastructure" can fall ill at any time during a "long" peak of the epidemic. The 5 million includes 1 million NHS personnel and 1,5 million social assistance.
The briefing raises questions about how Britain will continue to function normally in the event the coronavirus lasts a year. The document warns that: "It is estimated that at least 10% of people in the UK will have a cough at any time during the peak months of Covid-19 activity". The directives passed the other day in the UK stipulate that anyone with a cough must self-isolate for at least seven days.
A high number of victims
A senior NHS figure involved in preparing for the growing "wave" of patients whose lives have been put at risk by Covid-19 said an infection rate of 80% it could lead to the deaths of over half a million people.
If the death rate turns out to be the 1% that many experts use as a working hypothesis, this would mean 531.100 deaths in England alone. But if Whitty's insistence that the rate is closer to 0,6% proves accurate, the figure will "only" be 318.660 dead.
The English peak
Experts advising governments around the world on how epidemics grow and ultimately decrease say there will be a rapid rise in cases to a peak - and then a fall. Whitty, who has seen modeling done by British and global scientists, says the case numbers will rise rapidly over the next 10-14 weeks.
This will mean (in the UK, which is lagging behind Italy) a peak between the end of May and the middle of June, when the NHS will undergo strong pressure. The strategy of all countries is to delay that peak and extend it for a longer period of time so that health services are able to cope with the situation. And then there is also the possibility that new treatments will be available by that time.
After the peak, the number of cases and deaths are expected to decline for 10 weeks or more, until they reach a low enough level, which may not be zero.
Especially in the summer months, the number of cases is expected to decrease as people spend more time outdoors and are less likely to be locked in confined spaces with infected people.
In summary, there is a fear that coronavirus may last a year, recur in the autumn or winter months, which means long-term planning will be needed.