BRITAIN will experience a “substantial third wave” of coronavirus infections through the summer, a SAGE adviser has warned.
Professor Andrew Hayward said the rapid spread of the Delta variant was “extremely worrying” as Boris Johnson prepares to announce a month-long delay to the easing of lockdown restrictions tomorrow.
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The PM is poised to sign off plans to push back the lifting of restrictions from June 21 until July 19 amid growing concern over the spread of the strain, which is 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
Mr Hayward, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s now very clear that we will have a substantial third wave of infections.
“The big question is how that will translate into hospitalisations.
“The fact that we’ve got 50 per cent of the population double vaccinated means this won’t be as bad as it could have been… but we don’t know yet how bad it will be.
"The fact it is 60 per cent more infectious is extremely worrying and that will drive the speed of the next wave.”
Asked whether it was possible to reopen the economy fully on June 21 amid the rise in infections, Prof Hayward responded: “If we were to open up more that would really fan the flames and lead to infections increasing even faster.
“If you’re driving down a road and you come to a bend and you don’t know what's around it, you don’t put your foot on the accelerator. You slow down not speed up.
“We need to be really cautious. There is still a substantial chance we could have a wave of hospitalisations that could put pressure on the NHS, when it is already dealing with a backlog.”
Scientists now estimate that 96 per cent of all new cases of coronavirus are attributed to the Delta variant.
The latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show there have been 42,323 cases of the Delta variant confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from the previous week.
PHE estimates that the strain is 60 per cent more transmissible compared with the previously dominant Alpha, or Kent, variant, and that cases are doubling every four-and-a-half days in some parts of England.
Prof Hayward said that the spread of the strain could spark a wave of hospitalisations despite the success of the vaccination programme.
He said: “There’s two sides to it… one is how fast we can vaccinate and another is how much we can slow the virus down.
“We’re vaccinating as fast as we can but we still have a lot of people who have not been double jabbed, and that’s the absolute priority.
“If it wasn’t for the level of vaccination we currently have, we would be in a very different situation."
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