Further waves of Covid-19 cases are predicted, and health authorities are expected to act urgently to prepare for such autumn in which coronavirus will prevail.
Last week’s figure on cases of coronavirus infection showed another dramatic jump, and scientists and doctors have given a clear warning. More than 2 million people across Britain were infected in just one week since 14 June, which reveals a rise of more than 30% on the preceding week.
Most scientists contend that they expect another peak driven by the current Omicron BA4 and BA5 variant, and a warning on an additional wave this autumn is given out.
“Our current planning assumptions are that we will see at least one wave [of Covid] in the autumn-winter period once we have got through the current wave that we’re in right now,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.
This view was backed by virologist Prof Lawrence Young of Warwick University. “We need to prepare now for the autumn and winter months, when colder weather will drive people indoors, increasing the risk of infection, not only with new Covid variants but also with other respiratory virus infections.”
One key to preparing for other waves of coronavirus infection cases will be the selection of vaccines. Moderna, Pfizer, and other drug companies are all working towards the target of finding a vaccine that can repress different Omicron variants in different ways.
“However, it will be up to the government to decide which of these versions will be best for the country,” said Prof Adam Finn of Bristol University. “Officials are likely to be influenced not so much by data which shows which formulation looks the most promising in tackling the new variants as by the company which looks the most able to deliver the right number of vaccines on time.”
This point was backed by Prof Francois Balloux, director of University College London’s Genetics Institute. “Obviously, if you wait until the last moment, you will have the best chance of designing a vaccine that is best able to tackle the variant that is most widespread but you do not want to risk production failing to deliver sufficient doses in time.”
While preparing to combat coronavirus, other health threats are still of concern. Scientists said that the pandemic measure, particularly the imposition of lockdown, is likely to have left the public vulnerable to other illnesses, such as flu.
Finn said: “Basically, we have not been infecting each other with flu for two years now and so we have not been building up immunity to it.”
He added: “As a result, we are now more vulnerable to flu and we are likely to see winter peaks, possibly big ones, this year. Indeed, flu may turn out to be a much bigger problem this winter than Covid-19. For this reason, I think it is crucial that we give the autumn Covid booster vaccine at the same time as we give the yearly flu vaccine for the over-65s.”
Another factor that could affect the nation this winter includes the rosing living costs. “It could inadvertently help to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus if people are less able to spend time in indoor crowded leisure spaces such as shopping centers and cinemas,” said virologist Julian Tang of Leicester University. “On the other hand, an inability to heat homes, together with an increased circulation of viruses will exacerbate hospitalization rates from the disease.”
Stephen Griffin of Leeds University also urged for a comprehensive plan for continued vaccination particularly aimed at younger age groups.
“While far less common than in adults, we can expect – based on the previous wave – that the very high prevalence of Omicron will sadly cause a considerable number of juvenile hospitalizations and long Covid, whose impact on a young life is soul-destroying.”