A Covid-19 winter wave could overwhelm the NHS and be more serious than anything we've seen so far, according to a new report by the Academy of Medical Sciences.

The ‘Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21’ report sets out the winter pressures facing the UK that also include Covid-19 patients still having symptoms, new cases, the non-Covid backlog as well as the possibility of a flu epidemic.

It calls for intense preparation in July and August before winter hits bringing its usual pressures such as an increase in other infectious diseases and worsening of chronic diseases such as COPD and heart problems.

This preparation includes minimising transmission of coronavirus in the community and reorganising health and social care staff and facilities to maintain Covid-19 and Covid-19-free zones.

Adequate PPE, testing and increasing the capacity of the test, trace and isolate programme are also essental. This is to cope with the overlapping symptoms of Covid-19, flu and other winter infections.

We need to get health and social care ready for winter

The report says preparing for a 'reasonable worst-case scenario' could save lives as people will spend more time indoors in the winter and research suggests the virus is able to survive longer in colder, darker winter conditions.

A modelling scenario suggests a hospital peak in January and February 2021 and that hospital deaths (excluding care homes) between September 2020 and June 2021 could be as high as 119,900. These rates could change depending on transmission rate control measures, or results of recent drug trials.

Chair of the report Professor Stephen Holgate, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is not a prediction, but it is a possibility. The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of Covid-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately.

“With relatively low numbers of Covid-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us.”

The report comes following a request by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor and included the findings and advice of 37 experts.


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