A government minister has conceded ‘it’s not beyond the imagination’ that 5,000 people a day will acquire long Covid this summer.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng made the admission while defending the decision to scrap restrictions despite rising infections.
Boris Johnson said earlier this week most mandatory social-distancing measures will expire on July 19 if ‘freedom day’ goes ahead as expected.
On Tuesday, health secretary Sajid Javid admitted the country is entering ‘unchartered territory’ and conceded the UK could soon be registering a record 100,000 cases a day.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week revealed an estimated 962,000 people in the UK were living with post-Covid-19 syndrome, including symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath.
Of those individuals self-reporting, 40% said they were experiencing the after effects for more than a year after their initial illness and almost two thirds said it had ‘adversely affected…day-to-day activities’.
When pressed on Sky News about projected rates of long Covid after July 19, Mr Kwarteng said ‘we can’t simply lockdown our society forever, we have to reopen’.
He added: ‘If we don’t reopen fully on July 19 the implications of that would be simply just to delay all of this until perhaps September and then the winter when things would become more difficult, so it’s a balancing act.’
When pressed by interviewer Niall Paterson over whether accepting higher rates among young people is ‘herd immunity by another name’, Mr Kwarteng said the government must find a ‘balance’ and would listen to medical advice to vaccinate children.
His comments come a day after Mr Javid’s stark admission cases could soon hit levels previously unseen at any point in the pandemic.
On Tuesday, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I said in parliament yesterday that by the time we get to the 19th, we would expect case numbers by then to be at least double what they are now, so around 50,000 a day.
‘As we ease and go into the summer, we expect them to rise significantly and they could go as high as 100,000.
‘We want to be very straightforward about this, about what we can expect in terms of case numbers.
‘But what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers and that is where the link has been severely weakened.’
The Prime Minister warned the country that the pandemic is ‘far from over’ and his own scientific advisers believe harsher restrictions may be needed the winter.
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