Coronavirus: ‘Pretty miserable winter ahead’ with further lockdowns a possibility

An emergence of new respiratory viruses means a “pretty miserable winter” is ahead for the UK with further lockdowns a possibility, scientists have warned.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 4:33 pm

Professor Calum Semple, member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government, has said that children and elderly people will be vulnerable to endemic viruses at the end of the year.

Another health expert and Government advisor warned that there may be the need for winter lockdowns if hospitals become “overwhelmed” at some point.

The claims come as an additional 125 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland were recorded yesterday.

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No further deaths were reported in the previous 24 hour period and to date, 1,941,162 vaccines have been administered in total in NI.

On Sunday morning, Professor Semple told Times Radio: “I suspect we’ll have a pretty miserable winter because the other respiratory viruses are going to come back and bite us quite hard.

“But after that, I think we’ll be seeing business as normal next year. There’s a sting in the tail after every pandemic, because social distancing will have reduced exposure, particularly of pregnant women and their newborn babies, they will have not been exposed to the usual endemic respiratory viruses.

“The protection that a pregnant woman would give to their unborn child has not occurred.

“So we are going to see a rise in a disease called bronchiolitis, and a rise in community acquired pneumonia in children and in the frail elderly, to the other respiratory viruses for which we don’t have vaccines. So that’s why we’re predicting a rough July, August and then a rough winter period.”

Professor Semple called it the “fourth wave winter” but added it would be much milder than the previous ones.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the strategic response director for Covid-19 at Public Health England (PHE) also warned of a possible rise in cases at the end of the year.

She told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We may have to do further lockdowns this winter, I can’t predict the future, it really depends on whether the hospitals start to become overwhelmed at some point.

Meanwhile Irish Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said young people who are not fully vaccinated can travel abroad this summer, despite the country’s chief medical officer’s advice to the contrary.

Dr Tony Holohan has advised people not to travel if they are not fully vaccinated but Mr Varadkar said it would be “unfair” to ask them not to travel, when the EU’s digital travel cert, set to be introduced on July 19, allows for travel for people who take PCR tests or who have previously had Covid.

He added: Because we are the Government, we have to take wider considerations into account, and that’s why the Government advice, the law we’re putting in place is actually different than the CMO’s advice. We are saying that people who aren’t fully vaccinated, including all those young people can travel abroad, but they will need to get a PCR test before they return and that is the protection that we’re looking for.”