Indian variant risks 10,000 daily hospital admissions in summer, experts warn

Scientists warn the strain could lead to 1,000 daily deaths within months (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

The Indian coronavirus variant could see 10,000 hospital admissions per day by the summer, scientists have warned. 

Last night the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the strain could also see 1,000 daily deaths within months.

The expert group added that there is a ‘realistic possibility’ it is far more transmissible than the Kent variant. 

Documents released by Sage yesterday said current plans to end lockdown restrictions in England on June 21 risk causing a deadly third wave as ‘there are still too few adults vaccinated’.

But plans for ramped up vaccinations in towns hit hardest by the new variant were ultimately ruled out. 

The papers read: ‘If vaccination reduces the likelihood of transmission for this variant, increasing regional vaccination in areas where it is prevalent could dampen growth in infections, although it takes several weeks for vaccines to provide protection. 

‘The benefits would need to be balanced against the costs of moving vaccines from elsewhere. JCVI continues to review the evidence on different vaccination strategies.’

A digital sign warns the public of a ‘Covid-19 variant of concern’ in Bolton, where the Indian strain is feared to be spreading fast (Picture: AFP)

The Indian variant, known as the B.1.617.2 strain, could spread up to 50% more easily than its Kent counterpart, according to SAGE’s SPI-M subgroup. 

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street press conference last night that he expects the variant to become the most dominant in the UK. 

On Thursday, data from Public Health England showed cases of the Indian strain had doubled in seven days. 

The numbers are made all the more worrying by the fact that the country is still in lockdown while millions of adults have already been vaccinated. 

SAGE said it is confident the Indian variant is not more deadly and that jabs will still prove effective against it, however there are still 30million Brits yet to receive a dose of a vaccine.

Given the strain’s ability to infect more people, the death toll could therefore climb significantly, scientists said. 

In a bid to halt the variant’s progress, surge testing is being rolled out in 15 hotspots, mostly in the North West of England, such as Bolton. 

Meanwhile all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable are being invited to receive their second jabs three weeks earlier. 

According to SPI-M models, in a worst-case scenario, a more contagious variant spreading through the country following the lifting of restrictions on June 21 could lead to 20,000 daily hospital admissions.

St John Ambulance vaccination volunteers at the ESSA Academy site in Bolton, where surge testing hopes to reveal magnitude of Indian variant

St John Ambulance vaccination volunteers at the ESSA Academy site in Bolton, where surge testing hopes to reveal magnitude of Indian variant (Picture: PA)

That stark figure threatens to take the NHS to breaking point, given how it struggled to cope with January’s peak of 3,800 daily admissions in England. 

Other forecasts have been less dire but still of concern, with a Warwick University study predicting up to 6,000 daily admissions if the variant is 40% more transmissible and up to 10,000 if it is 50% more contagious. 

Meanwhile the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine believes a 50% rise in transmissibility would lead to 4,000 daily admissions.

However it also found it could lead to 1,000 deaths per day by Autumn. 

Professor Whitty said last night: ‘We expect over time this variant will overtake and come to dominate in the UK in the way that B117 took over and other variants have taken over prior to that.’ 

Despite concerns, indoor socialising and holidays will be allowed from Monday as planned.

Boris Johnson admitted that ‘freedom day’ on June 21, when all restrictions are expected to be lifted in England, may be delayed if the Indian variant becomes out of control.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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