DOCTORS fear a rise in Covid and flu cases could create a “twindemic” that could overwhelm the NHS later this year.
There are indications a flu surge could occur two months earlier than usual and combined with an expected rise in coronavirus cases the twin onslaught could overload the NHS which is already trying to get record backlogs under control.
Figures from the Southern Hemisphere, which often foretell what will happen in the UK, indicate a flu surge two months earlier than normal, mostly driven by those under 30.
That would suggest a spike in flu admissions to hospital could start as early as October and could include many kids.
One estimate also suggests the flu season could be twice as large as normal.
Oxford University professor of emerging infectious diseases Sir Peter Horby told the Mirror: “It could come earlier and bigger, then you have a ‘twindemic’ with Covid-19 and that could put real pressure on the NHS.”
During a typical flu season there are between 15,000 and 30,000 hospitalisations due to the virus.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Reading University, said: “We’ve never had a [flu and Covid] dual outbreak so I’m concerned this UK season could be particularly bad.
“Catching flu and Covid together is particularly dangerous.
“We have the NHS under huge pressure as it catches up [from the pandemic] so you have a problem there.”
The warnings come as the waiting list for treatment from the NHS has hit a record 6.8million in England, with A&Es struggling to cope and ambulances frequently queueing outside with patients that cannot be unloaded due to a lack of capacity.
Experts also believe Covid could be about to flare up again as signs show the virus has already bounced back in parts of England.
Official figures released yesterday showed the nation’s outbreak is smaller than it has been for almost a year, with 705,000 people thought to be infected, equating to roughly one in every 75.
That figure is a nine per cent drop on the Office for National Statistics’ previous weekly estimate.
EXPERTS PREDICT A COMING SPIKE IN COVID CASES
While cases have been falling nationwide since mid-July, scientists predict there will be a spike again in the coming weeks as temperatures drop and people spend more time indoors and pupils return to their classrooms with students also heading back to university.
The latest figures show Covid infections have already started to rise, up by 20 per cent from a fortnight ago, with one in 42 people currently having the virus.
The huge crowds expected to turnout for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and other ceremonial events along with other tributes already held earlier this week suggest they could fuel the spread of the virus.
However, Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, does not believe the events will “play much of a role” in rising rates.
He told the MailOnline that following the Platinum Jubilee in June “although cases went up, they went up too soon to be due to the Jubilee and it was probably more to do with the school holidays and people going overseas, rather than mass gatherings”.
Prof Hunter added that the Women’s Euros, seen as another source of mass gathering, had barely “any real impact” on rates either.
The weekly estimates published by the ONS are considered the most accurate way of tracking cases and any outbreak.
It doesn’t rely on Brits testing themselves and reporting the results.
In Wales, cases dropped by 11 per cent to 28,200 and in Northern Ireland they fell 12 per cent to 33,700, although the ONS weren’t entirely confident in the overall trend.
Scotland though bucked the trend with figures showing a rise of 9 per cent to 113,500, on the previous week.
The figures – for the week ending September 5 – are based on swabs from a representative sample which includes thousands of people.
Across the regions in England cases rose in the South West and Yorkshire with a prevalence of 1.5 per cent while in The Humber numbers the prevalence was 1.3 per cent.
Separately, statistics from NHS England released two days ago showed an increase in the average number of Covid hospital admissions in the South West, compared to the previous week.
Between September 5 and September 12, the region’s admissions rose by 18.9 per cent from an average of 43 per day to 52.
In total though, an average of 519 Covid-infected people were admitted to hospitals with the virus in England for the week ending September 12 – eight times lower than levels seen at the peak.
Not all of patients are necessarily ill with the virus.
Source: The Sun