Health

Covid will last FOREVER and we need to live with it like the flu after Freedom Day

Coronavirus will never be eradicated and Britons will need to learn to live with the virus even if it causes hundreds of deaths a day when lockdown finally ends next month, top scientists and senior ministers have warned.    

Independent experts seeking to manage expectations before restrictions are lifted told MailOnline that achieving zero Covid deaths was ‘impossible’ and that the focus should be to bring them down to levels comparable with flu — which kills roughly 17,000 people in England annually and up to 50,000 in a bad year. 

The comments were echoed by Michael Gove, who said that while ministers need to do ‘everything we can to protect people’, it was important for the public to ‘accept’ that there would continue to be Covid deaths when the country unlocks on July 19.  

Boris Johnson and England’s chief expert advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have all repeated the line that we will ‘have to learn to live with Covid’ in the past 24 hours, in what seems to be a concerted effort to take emphasis away from the daily death numbers. 

There has been fierce debate about what level of Covid deaths would be ‘tolerable’ when Britain emerges from the shutdown — but one of the Government’s top scientists, Professor Graham Medley, said it was ‘quite possible’ there could be hundreds each day post lockdown.  

Professor Karol Sikora, an expert in medicine at the University of Buckingham, told MailOnline: ‘All deaths are very emotional and upsetting… but it’s important we embrace Covid like we have other viruses because it will become a normal feature in society.

‘We should consider it a success if we bring it [Covid deaths] down to levels comparable with flu deaths every year. We will never achieve zero Covid.’ 

Cambridge University epidemiologist Dr Raghib Ali told MailOnline that once July 19 comes and most of the adult population have been given a vaccine: ‘It’s my view that we will be in as strong a position as we ever will be. Prolonging restrictions beyond that point doesn’t achieve much.’

Asked what an acceptable number of Covid deaths would be, he added: ‘If you look at deaths and excess deaths from influenza, the Government tolerates numbers up to about 50,000 [per year].’

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, told Times Radio: ‘We have to accept that this virus will circulate, and it will be the case, unfortunately, that in winters to come we will find that people contract it or subsequent variants and they will fall ill.

‘Unfortunately there are respiratory diseases, including flu itself, which do every year result in an upsurge of people being taken into hospital, and in some cases suffering tragic consequences.’ In a separate interview with BBC Radio 4, he said ‘we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid’.

Covid has killed more than 150,000 people since the crisis began last spring, but the vaccines have shown to be extremely effective at preventing deaths – reducing fatalities by more than 90%.  Independent scientists seeking to manage expectations before restrictions are lifted told MailOnline that achieving zero Covid deaths going forward was ‘impossible’ and that the focus should be to bring them down to levels comparable with flu — which kills roughly 17,000 people in England annually (shown on graph). Source: Office for National Statistics and Public Health England

Michael Gove

Boris Johnson

Michael Gove (today, left) said that while ministers need to do ‘everything we can to protect people’, it was important for the public to ‘accept’ that there would continue to be Covid deaths when the country unlocks on July 19. Boris Johnson (pictured today, right) said we will ‘have to learn to live with Covid’ at last night’s press conference

It is not clear what levels of Covid deaths the country can expect when lockdown is ended next month, and this has been made less clear due to the outbreak of the highly transmissible Indian variant.

That strain has proven to be at least 60 per cent more infectious than the Kent version and twice as likely to put unvaccinated people in hospital. 

But two doses of the jabs are extremely effective against the mutant virus, reducing hospitalisations by up to 96 per cent. 

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned there could have been 250 to more than 500 deaths per day in the third wave this summer if Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown went ahead as planned on June 21.

Ministers urge another 3.6MILLION people in Indian variant hotspots not to travel 

Millions more people in the Midlands and North West of England are being urged not to travel or meet people indoors in an attempt to curb the spread of the Indian Covid variant.

In guidance released last night, roughly 3.6million residents in Birmingham, Liverpool, Warrington and parts of Cheshire were asked to minimise their movements in and out of the affected areas, which are recording higher than average levels of the mutant strain.

But Boris Johnson made no mention of the fresh advice in his dramatic Downing Street press conference last night, where he confirmed England’s final unlocking would be pushed back by four weeks amid fears the mutant strain could overwhelm hospitals.

Remaining lockdown restrictions are now due to be lifted on July 19, which the Prime Minister last night promised would be the ‘terminus date’.

The Government today doubled down on its new Freedom Day pledge, with Michael Gove saying he was ‘as confident as confident can be about that date’, despite fears from backbench Tory MPs that the goalposts will be moved once again.

Asked about whether the Prime Minister could put Tory fears to bed this afternoon, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said ‘there is not a significant benefit from a further delay beyond the four weeks because of the success of the vaccination programme.’ 

The six authorities hit with the new guidance are also being offered a ‘package of support’ from the Government which includes surge testing, enhanced contact tracing and financial support to Covid cases and their contacts who have been asked to self-isolate.

The Army will be sent in to help carry out the extra testing to flush out cases of the virus, while NHS boards in the area will be given extra help to ensure vaccine uptake is as high as possible. Residents are also being asked to get tested twice a week. 

They join the 4m people in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, who were placed under the new rules last week. The enhanced measures cover around 9.3m residents across England, the equivalent of 16 per cent of the entire population.

The group did not provide clear projections for what effect delaying the unlocking until July 19 will have on deaths, but its estimates around hospitalisations show the four-week gap could shrink admissions by more than half.

Prominent SAGE member Professor Graham Medley warned that, even with the extra breathing room the delay gives, Britain could still suffer hundreds of Covid deaths every day later in the year. 

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, said this was possible because there will still be millions of people who are vulnerable to the disease even when the entire country is vaccinated.

A small percentage of people who get the jab will still catch and die from Covid, usually because they are frail and have compromised immune systems.  

Dr Clarke told MailOnline: ‘Even if you’ve got a vaccine that cuts deaths by more than 90 per cent, that still leaves almost 7million people not protected.

‘Then there will be even more people who get infected but do not get seriously ill. So that still means lots and lots of virus circulating which poses a risk to those vulnerable 7m.’

But he said emphasis should be taken away from the Covid death figures and focused on NHS capacity, which he said was now the most important metric.

Keith Neil, an emeritus professor in infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said that once the adult population had been vaccinated with at least once dose against Covid it was no longer the Government’s responsibility to try to save every life.

‘We can’t stay in lockdowns forever, people need to make their own risk assessments. If people are worried about Covid or think they might be vulnerable, then they might decide not to meet up with others or socially distance.’

Backbench Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May and Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), criticised the Government for delaying the June 21 unlocking by a month, saying it was moving away from its goal of protecting the NHS. They said Britons had to learn to live with the virus.

However, other experts have said it is the Government’s duty to do prevent all ‘avoidable’ deaths and warned ministers against becoming cocky about the virus. 

Professor Gabriel Scally, a public health expert at the University of Bristol, told MailOnline: ‘What’s an acceptable level of road traffic accidents? We don’t accept those deaths we have inquests to find out what went wrong and how can we put it right.

‘Like any infectious disease it’s our duty to do whatever we can to protect people from it. If we don’t take sensible  action and people get ill then we’re being careless with people’s lives.’

Meanwhile, millions more people in the Midlands and North West of England are being urged not to travel or meet people indoors in an attempt to curb the spread of the Indian Covid variant.

In guidance released last night, roughly 3.6million residents in Birmingham, Liverpool, Warrington and parts of Cheshire were asked to minimise their movements in and out of the affected areas, which are recording higher than average levels of the mutant strain.

But Mr Johnson made no mention of the fresh advice in his dramatic Downing Street press conference last night, where he confirmed England’s final unlocking would be pushed back by four weeks amid fears the mutant strain could overwhelm hospitals. 

Daily UK figures show 7,673 people tested positive for the virus, 184 patients were admitted to hospital and 10 people died. The data also shows that 41.8million people have been given their first dose of a vaccine, while 30.2million have received their second

Daily UK figures show 7,673 people tested positive for the virus, 184 patients were admitted to hospital and 10 people died. The data also shows that 41.8million people have been given their first dose of a vaccine, while 30.2million have received their second

Meanwhile, figures also showed the number of patients being admitted to hospital has soared by 46 per cent over the first week of June. More than 1,000 beds are now occupied by coronavirus-infected patients in England for the first time in six weeks, data also showed. Pictured, how the number of infected patients in hospital in England has risen above 1,000

Meanwhile, figures also showed the number of patients being admitted to hospital has soared by 46 per cent over the first week of June. More than 1,000 beds are now occupied by coronavirus-infected patients in England for the first time in six weeks, data also showed. Pictured, how the number of infected patients in hospital in England has risen above 1,000

Rees Mogg talks tough as UK’s daily Covid cases rise by a quarter in a week and hospitalisations soar by 46% 

Jacob Rees-Mogg today gave the first sign of Cabinet dissent over Boris Johnson’s decision to delay the final stage of the lockdown exit roadmap — as ministers doubled-down on No10’s revised Freedom Day pledge, despite cases and hospitalisations continuing to rise.

The Commons Leader said ‘you can’t run society purely to stop the hospitals being full’, insisting the Government ‘doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives, purely to prevent them seeing the doctor’.

His comments are likely to raise eyebrows in Downing St, with the Prime Minister already facing rebellion from his own anti-lockdown MPs who have criticised him for pushing back the final unlocking by four weeks. Remaining lockdown restrictions are now due to be lifted on July 19 — or ‘terminus day’, as Mr Johnson called it.   

It comes as Department of Health bosses today posted another 7,673 positive Covid tests across Britain — up by a quarter on last Tuesday’s figure. Other data shows the UK now has the highest infection rate in Europe, overtaking Spain.

Meanwhile, figures also showed the number of patients being admitted to hospital has soared by 46 per cent over the first week of June. More than 1,000 beds are now occupied by coronavirus-infected patients in England for the first time in six weeks, data also showed. 

Despite the uptick in admissions, deaths remain flat. Ten more victims were added to the official death toll today, compared to 13 last week. Separate figures today revealed that England and Wales saw fewer Covid deaths in the first week of June than at any time since March 2020. 

The Government today doubled down on its new Freedom Day pledge, with Mr Gove saying he was ‘as confident as confident can be about that date’, despite fears from backbench Tory MPs the goalposts will be moved once again.

Asked about whether the PM could put Tory fears to bed this afternoon, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman claimed ‘there is not a significant benefit from a further delay beyond the four weeks because of the success of the vaccination programme.’ 

The six authorities hit with the new guidance are also being offered a ‘package of support’ from the Government which includes surge testing, enhanced contact tracing and financial support to Covid cases and their contacts who have been asked to self-isolate.

The Army will be sent in to help carry out the extra testing to flush out cases of the virus, while NHS boards in the area will be given extra help to ensure vaccine uptake is as high as possible. Residents are also being asked to get tested twice a week. 

They join the 4m people in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, who were placed under the new rules last week. The enhanced measures cover around 9.3m residents across England, the equivalent of 16 per cent of the entire population. 

In other developments, Jacob Rees-Mogg today gave the first sign of Cabinet dissent over Mr Johnson’s decision to delay the final stage of the lockdown exit roadmap, despite cases and hospitalisations continuing to rise.

The Commons Leader said ‘you can’t run society purely to stop the hospitals being full’, insisting the Government ‘doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives, purely to prevent them seeing the doctor’. 

It comes as Department of Health bosses today posted another 7,673 positive Covid tests across Britain — up by a quarter on last Tuesday’s figure. Other data shows the UK now has the highest infection rate in Europe, overtaking Spain.

Meanwhile, figures also showed the number of patients being admitted to hospital has soared by 46 per cent over the first week of June. More than 1,000 beds are now occupied by coronavirus-infected patients in England for the first time in six weeks, data also showed. 

Despite the uptick in admissions, deaths remain flat. Ten more victims were added to the official death toll today, compared to 13 last week. Separate figures today revealed that England and Wales saw fewer Covid deaths in the first week of June than at any time since March 2020.

But the rate is climbing in the North West, where millions of adults are being urged not to travel and meet friends indoors to keep a lid on the Indian variant. Fatalities doubled from eight in the space of a fortnight to 16 across the region. 

No10’s top scientists expect deaths to rise in coming weeks because of the spike in cases — but remain confident vaccines will thwart the disease, preventing tens of thousands of hospitalisations and fatalities.

More than 30million adults have now been vaccinated but MailOnline analysis shows the roll-out needs to speed up by around 12 per cent for the PM to meet his revised target of ensuring all adults have had their first vaccine dose and two-thirds of adults are fully vaccinated by July 19.


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