85,000 deaths likely in UK second wave, says leaked report

A leaked government report has revealed there could be up to 85,000 coronavirus deaths this winter.

The paper produced by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), revealed that some lockdown restrictions may have to be reintroduced and kept in place until March 2021 said BBC Newsnight.

The Sage report said it aims to prepare healthcare and council services for all eventualities and it stressed the details are "scenarios not predictions".

Critics have said the modelling and some of the assumptions may already be out of date.

According to Newsnight, the document was drawn up on the assumption that schools will remain open and that tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40 per cent effective in cutting the spread of the coronavirus outside households.

More than 41,486 people have died in the UK to date although the number of excess deaths over the course of the pandemic is more than 60,000. There have also been over 330,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far.

Sage's latest prediction suggests that in case of a new spike in Covid-19, by November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre-March 2020 levels.

The model found that in a worst-case scenario, there could be 81,000 excess deaths due to Covid-19 in England and Wales between July 2020 and March 2021, and 27,000 excess deaths from non-coronavirus causes.

The figures suggest that about 2.4 per cent of infected people could be hospitalised, though it said there was a wide range of possible outcomes, from 0.0 to 8.9 per cent, with 20.5% of hospitalised patients going into ICU (range: 1.5% - 35.25) and 23.3% (range: 1.2% - 43.3%) of all hospitalised patients dying.

According to BBC Newsnight , there are local authorities planning who say the wide range of possibilities in deaths and hospitalisations make it hard to know if the virus will have little impact or if it will lead to catastrophic extra pressures in the coming months.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, told the BBC the report had "very wide ranges" of scenarios which make it "quite difficult for people to work out exactly what they should be doing".

Professor Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, said some of the assumptions made in the model were "implausible" and that the report assumes that "we've learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease".

In response to the leaked report, a UK government spokesperson said: “Our planning is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”