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A Third Wave Of Covid Cases And Deaths Is Inevitable, Says Chris Whitty

Chris Whitty told MPs a third wave of coronavirus could happen as early as the Summer

3 min read

Chris Whitty has warned MPs that the unvaccinated will be most at risk in the next wave of coronavirus cases, which could come as early as this summer.

Appearing in front of the science and technology committee alongside chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Whitty said that while the vaccine rollout would have an effect on the death rate, it wouldn’t go “right down to zero”. 

“As things are opening up, what all the modelling suggests is that at some point we will get a surge in virus,” the chief medical officer said.

“Whether that happens, we hope it doesn’t happen soon, but it might for example happen later in the summer if we open up gradually, or if there’s a seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn or winter. 

“But I think all the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge and that will find the people who have either not been vaccinated or where the vaccine’s not worked. 

“Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die. That’s just the reality of where we are.”

Whitty and Vallance also warned against rushing the lifting of lockdown restrictions, insisting to the committee that the pandemic was not over yet.

"If you look at the history of this all around the world, the history of this is not full of countries and individual leaders wishing they had done more, faster,” Whitty said.

He continued: “A lot of people may think this is all over. 

“I would encourage them to look at what is happening in continental Europe at the moment, where a lot of countries are going back into rates going up and having to close things down again, having not been in that situation before.”

“It’s very easy to forget quite how quickly things can turn bad if you don’t keep a very close eye on it."

And, asked by MPs if the roadmap out of lockdown could be moved up if the situation improved, Vallance said scientists needed at least three weeks of data at each stage to “really get a decent handle on what's happening”.

“I think that if you truncate that you are essentially flying blind,” he continued.

“You might feel, oh I can smell it going in a certain direction, it looks like this, but you really won't know. So, that is what the basis of that gap is.”

The government began the first stage of lockdown lifting on Monday, with schools allowed to fully reopen and care home residents allowed one regular visitor. 

But he said the “firebreak” of the Easter holiday would offer “a chance to find out what the effect of that will be” before pupils return for the Summer term. 

Responding to concerns around the reopening of schools, Vallance admitted it is “quite difficult to know precisely” what impact the move will have on the R rate of infections, but predicts it could rise by between 10% and 50%. 

But he said schools were rarely the driver of infection, adding: “When we look back at the impact of schools opening, in general, schools seem to reflect quite closely what's happening in the community.”

The “firebreak” of the Easter holiday would offer “a chance to find out what the effect of that will be” before pupils return for the Summer term, he added. 

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