BRITAIN will not face a third wave of coronavirus deaths in the Autumn thanks to the astonishing success of the vaccination programme, an expert has said.
Philip Thomas, professor of risk management at Bristol University, said that the UK is “beating the pandemic” – after the number of Brits who received their second dose of the jab passed 10 million yesterday.
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The UK has seen deaths and hospitalisations plummet in the past month due to lockdown restrictions and the success of the jab rollout. Almost 33 million Brits have now received their first dose.
Yesterday, just four Covid fatalities were recorded – the lowest figure since September 1 and down from a peak of 1,360 on January 19.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Professor Thomas said the government was on track to meet its target of full freedom by June 21 – the date that all legal coronavirus restrictions will end.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have claimed that a full unlocking could prompt a large wave of infection in the autumn, with new variants potentially thwarting the success of the vaccination programme.
But Professor Thomas said that the “negativity” of some experts was “overdone”, and there was “little evidence” to back the claim that the easing of lockdown would see a surge in deaths.
He wrote: “It is my view that if there is indeed an increase in infections over the coming months, it will have little significant impact and the death toll will remain extremely low.
“That is because of the huge success of the vaccine programme, which will mean that by June, the overwhelming majority of the population is protected.”
He added: “My prediction is that, although the total number of active infections in England could reach a peak of 160,000 in the early autumn of this year, this rise will not lead to a spike in deaths or hospitalisations.
“That is because, thanks to the vaccines, the link between Covid infections and fatalities has been broken.”
Professor Thomas also claimed that even when the peak of the third wave is reached, the death toll will remain less than 20 per day.
Meanwhile, public health experts are continuing to monitor the real-world impact of the vaccination programme as restrictions are eased.
It is hoped this could give an indication of just how effective vaccines are at curbing transmission as well as stopping serious illness.
But scientists have raised concern over the spread of new variants, which they fear could render vaccines less effective.
Boris Johnson cancelled his planned trip to India next week amid concern over the country's new variant there, which is now also present in the UK.
To date, Public Health England (PHE) has seven variants under investigation (VUI), including the one from India, of which 77 cases have been identified in the UK.
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the variant is likely to become a variant of concern – though it is not yet known whether it is resistant to vaccines.
However, Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said that while the variant should be watched carefully, it is "probably not at the top tier of mutations that generate the most concern".
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