Winter months could see 85,000 coronavirus deaths, says leaked government report

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A leaked government report has outlaid the "reasonable worst case scenario" of the number of deaths due to Covid-19 over the winter months.

It suggests 85,000 could be the figure the UK hits once the colder weather arrives.

But it is clear to point out that this is a "scenario, not a prediction".

Sage scientific advisory group have prepared the report, which BBC Newsnight has seen, to help the NHS and local authorities plan ahead.

In the report it says schools will remain open.

The trace, isolation, and quarantine measures will be 40% effective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

It also states that by November "policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre March 2020 levels".

According to the report these measures might be expected to remain in place until March 2021.

The projection has taken to account people who would have been expected to die because they have other illnesses.

According to the report in England and Wales there could be 81,000 excess deaths due to Covid, plus 27,000 excess deaths from non-Covid causes.

In Scotland there could be 2,600 direct Covid deaths, and 1,900 in Northern Ireland.

But there is criticism, Prof Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, said some of the assumptions made in the model were "implausible" and that the report assumes that "we've learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease".

BBC Newsnight also talked to people in local authorities planning who say the wide range of possibilities in deaths and hospitalisations make it hard to know the impact of Covid-19 in the coming months.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, said the report had "very wide ranges" of scenarios which make it "quite difficult for people to work out exactly what they should be doing".

In response to Friday's leaked report, a UK government spokesperson said: "As a responsible government we have been planning and continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst case scenario.

"Our planning is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities."

  • Coronavirus

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