The coronavirus is likely to keep returning “over a number of years”, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
Sir Patrick Vallance has become the latest top scientist to warn COVID-19 will probably be a long-term feature of people’s lives.
He told MPs at the Commons science and technology committee on Thursday: “There’s a very high likelihood that come winter, we will see an increase in cases.
“You could argue that’s the tail-end of the first wave coming back.
“And I think it’s quite probable that we will see this virus coming back in different waves over a number of years.”
As of Thursday, 45,119 people had died in the UK after testing positive for the virus.
Last month, when Boris Johnson announced the easing of lockdown measures, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned the virus is likely to be in circulation in the “winter and into next spring”.
In May, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, also said: “The reality is, until we get a vaccine, and only if we get a vaccine that is really capable of suppressing disease levels, will we ever be ‘out of this’?
“From that perspective, we may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term. Certainly for many months to come, if not years.”
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick also said on Thursday that a fresh spike in cases later this year would still be part of the first wave of the outbreak.
Referring to the recent reduction of daily new cases, he said: “All we have done is suppress the first wave and when you take the brakes off, you would expect it to come back.”
On Tuesday, an Academy of Medical Sciences report, commissioned by Sir Patrick, stated the ”reasonable worst-case scenario” to prepare for this winter is a reproduction rate (known as the “R” value) of 1.7 from September.
Thirty-seven scientists modelled a scenario forecasting a second peak of hospital admissions and deaths in January or February next year, with a possible 119,900 deaths between September and June.
However, the report’s forecasts did not take account of measures the government would take to restrict the spread in the winter, nor the hospital use of steroid dexamethasone, which could substantially reduce deaths.