BORIS Johnson decided to delay the UK’s ‘freedom day’ after stark warnings from scientists that the UK could suffer 50,000 deaths in a horror summer Covid wave.
The PM was warned 2,500 people may be hospitalised every day if unlocking continued as planned, new documents from Sage reveal.
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And tonight, he told Brits in an uncharacteristically sombre address that we must learn to live alongside the virus – as it will NEVER disappear.
The PM announced that:
Mr Johnson told ministers stage four of his roadmap to freedom must be held back after he was presented with a paper on a potential worst-case scenario for the coming weeks.
The document revealed that a summer wave of infections, hospitalisations and deaths is “likely” – whether or not restrictions are lifted.
Surging cases in the UK are being driven by the mutant Indian – or Delta – variant, which has become the country’s dominant strain in a matter of weeks.
And scientists have warned the potential peak death rate could be reduced from 700 to 500 a day if the final stage in unlocking is delayed.
’50K MORE COULD DIE WITHOUT DELAY’
The wait for ‘freedom day’ will reduce the number of deaths – but Brits are warned many more will die, despite the success of the jabs roll out.
Without the delay, 49,700 are likely to lose their lives – a horrific toll that reduces to around 43,500 with the wait, modellers say.
The paper is just one projection – and may never be realised.
For example, Sage predicted a range of scenarios this summer, including that by June 14, anywhere between 38,061 and 2,050 people would be in hospital.
The true number on that date was 993.
Tonight, the PM said he’s “confident” the UK can end lockdown altogether by July 19, and possibly earlier if cases drop.
However, warnings drawn up by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will likely cause concern.
And epidemiologist Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh said that while the Delta variant is “significantly harder to control”, some “very large” uncertainties around the number of possible deaths remain.
“Despite considerable uncertainty, there is a consistent pattern that delaying stage four for four to five weeks has a significant public health benefit,” he said.
“It reduces – by 20 to 30 per cent in the central scenarios – the total number of Covid-19 hospitalisations over the coming year.
“It has a bigger impact on the peak – a 40 to 50 per cent reduction – and pushes the peak further into the autumn.”
Models suggest that is stage four isn’t delayed, hospital admissions “could be on a comparable scale to the past winter”, he added.
Mr Johnson warned tonight: “As we’ve always known, and as the February roadmap predicted, this opening up has inevitably been accompanied by more infections and more hospitalisations, because we must be clear we cannot simply eliminate Covid.
“We must learn to live with it.
“With every day that goes by, we are better protected by vaccinations and better able to live with the disease.”
And he said health chiefs and politicians are “so concerned” by the spread of the mutation.
“Cases are growing by about 64 per cent per week on week, and the worst affected areas are doubling every week,” he said.
“The average number of people admitted increased 50 per cent week on week, and 61 per cent in the north-west.
In brighter news, however, he said: “We do think that we will have built up a very considerable wall of immunity around the whole population.
“On that basis I am confident that we will go forward with step four, the full opening.
“That, of course, doesn’t exclude the possibility that there is some new variant that is far more dangerous that kills people in a way we can’t currently foresee or understand.”
And Sir Patrick Vallance warned: “This is a virus that’s going to be with us forever.”
About 44 per cent of UK adults are not yet fully vaccinated against Covid.
More than two million of that number are aged 50 and over.
At the current rate of rollout, a delay of four weeks would mean another nine million people could have their second doses
Public Health England research found that a single dose of the jab was just 33 per cent effective against the Indian mutation.
Protection ramps up significantly, to around 81 per cent, with a second dose.
Just over an hour before the PM started speaking, it was revealed that the number of people testing positive for the virus has rocketed by a third in a week.
A further 7,742 infections were reported today.
However, deaths are currently staying low – with three more fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours.
But 1,089 people are in hospital with the virus – with 161 in ventilated beds.