COVID could be a concern for next five Christmases, scientist warns

·2-min read

COVID could be a concern for at least another five Christmases, according to one scientist.

Professor Tim Spector, the lead scientist and co-founder of an app that tracks the spread of the virus, says the vaccine rollout alone is not enough to control infections.

His comments come as the UK's official cases and deaths have appeared to trend downwards after reaching a peak last month - although there are warnings the situation remains volatile.

Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, highlighted concerns about the NHS, saying the health system is in a "perilous" position with 7% of beds occupied by people with COVID during the busier cooler months.

Data from NHS England - analysed by the King's Fund think tank - shows the NHS is "on its knees", with "chronic workforce shortages" heaping pressure on the system.

Deborah Ward, senior analyst at the King's Fund, said: "Today's stats reveal the worst performance since current records began for ambulance calls, A&Es and waits for planned hospital care.

"In a normal year any one of these would ring alarm bells; taken together before winter has even begun, they suggest a health and care system running hot for such a sustained period whilst still dealing with COVID-19, it is now on its knees."

Prof Spector said: "We have to realise we just have to in some way control (COVID) into something that doesn't cause as much loss of life, doesn't cause morbidities, and reduce that.

"And to do that is a combination of the vaccines, the medicines, etc. But also we have to keep some public health measures in place to keep those numbers down - we're not doing that."

He added: "So we're not doing enough, we are too complacent. The government has a sort of a black and white approach and I think the public health messaging from the government has been appalling."

The government has recently been on a messaging blitz encouraging people to get their third coronavirus vaccines.

Close to 11.5 million people have had a booster or third shot, while just under 46 million people have had two jabs.

The UK also recently became the first country to approve a "game-changing" antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which can be taken at home to help treat COVID.

A second pill could be ready for the general public in the new year.

This is around the time that frontline NHS workers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID.

There are warnings this could exacerbate the staffing shortage in the NHS, as seen when the care sector introduced similar measures today.

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