A secret Public Health England (PHE) document forecasts that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK will stretch into the spring of 2021 and affect four out of five people in the country.
According to The Guardian, which reviewed the PHE briefing document, it represents the first time that health officials charged with handling the outbreak “have admitted that they expect it to circulate for another 12 months and lead to a huge extra strain on an already overstretched” National Health Service.
In all, the document says officials believe that approximately 7.9 million people will be hospitalized in the UK with the virus as some 80 percent of Britons become infected over the next year.
The news site noted further:
Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, has previously described that figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the real number would turn out to be less than that. However, the briefing makes clear that four in five of the population “are expected” to contract the virus.
“As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalization,” the document says, according to The Guardian.
The briefing represents the latest mindset within the UK’s top government medical echelons regarding the impact of coronavirus on the country of nearly 68 million people.
The document also measures the impact that the expanding viral outbreak will have on the NHS, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, police and transportation.
The news site reported that the document was just recently drafted by PHE’s emergency preparedness response team and approved by Dr. Susan Hopkins, the organization’s lead official in charge of handling the country’s coronavirus response. The document has reportedly been distributed to hospital administrators and senior physicians throughout the UK.
“For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told The Guardian.
“A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood,” said the epidemiology expert. (Related: GET READY: Ten new predictions covering what will happen in America over the next 12 weeks due to the coronavirus.)
“I think it will dip in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, in the way that usual flu season does,” he continued. “I think it will be around forever, but become less severe over time, as immunity builds up.”
The news comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the UK rose to roughly 1,400, with 35 deaths. England has seen the lion’s share of cases, while Ireland has seen the fewest.
It also appears to dash hopes by many health experts that the summer heat would kill the virus.
In addition, the document predicts that about 500,000 of the 5 million people considered vital because they are employed “in essential services and critical infrastructure” will be off work sick at any given time during a peak of the epidemic expected to last at least a month. Those workers include 1 million NHS staff and about 1.5 million social workers.
The document also raises concerns that Britain will not continue to function normally.
“It is estimated that at least 10% of people in the UK will have a cough at any one time during the months of peak Covid-19 activity,” he says.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued revised health advice last week, noting that anyone with a cough should self-quarantine for at least seven days.
In real numbers, at a mortality rate of 1 percent, should 80 percent of Britons fall ill with the virus, that would equate to around 531,000 deaths; at 0.6 percent, that figure is still high — 318,660.