The coronavirus second wave is now almost certainly worse than the government’s “worst-case scenario”, official papers reveal today.
Government advisors said two weeks ago that England was outpacing even the grimmest plans they laid back in July.
And a senior scientist today confirmed “the trajectory at the moment is breaching it,” but “if action is taken, then you can reverse this”.
The UK worst-case scenario held by the Cabinet Office, which was leaked this week, was based on a staggering 85,000 deaths happening between summer 2020 and March 2021.
It modelled cases and deaths rising throughout winter, from a fairly low level in October and November to a peak of 800 Covid-19 deaths a day by early Spring.
And it was based on there being more than 500 deaths a day for “at least” 90 days.
Today’s documents show that by October 14, England’s number of new cases and hospital admissions each day had risen above what the worst-case scenario predicted for that point in winter.
Infections had also risen above the worst-case scenario by October 14.
A SAGE sub-group estimated there were between 43,000 and 74,000 new infections a day in England. That compares to just 12,000 to 13,000 a day modelled throughout October in the worst-case scenario.
And the number of deaths had drawn level with the worst-case scenario by October 14, and were “almost certain” to outpace it by today, a SAGE sub-group said.
The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling wrote on October 14: “In England, we are breaching the number of infections and hospital admissions in the Reasonable Worst Case planning scenario that is based on COVID-S’s winter planning strategy.
“The number of daily deaths is now in line with the levels in the Reasonable Worst Case and is almost certain to exceed this within the next two weeks.”
Ministers argue the new system may be bringing down infections. But it is too early to tell and an Imperial College Study this week suggested the R number still may be well above 1.
That would suggest the second wave is continuing to breach the worst-case scenario despite the new lockdown system.
Yesterday officials confirmed 280 new UK deaths. According to the Spectator, which was leaked the worst-case scenario, the daily total at this point should have been lower.
To make matters worse, SAGE warned the worst-case scenario would likely continue to be breached for several weeks even if the R number fell below 1.
And figures today show R remains at 1.1-1.3 for the UK, suggesting each person who gets Covid-19 is spreading it to more than one other person.
The experts said: “Were the number of new infections to fall in the very near future, this exceedance of the reasonable worst case scenario might only continue for three to four weeks.
“But if R remains above 1 then the epidemic will further diverge from the planning scenario.”
SAGE warned on October 8 that unless there are “decisive interventions, continued growth would have the potential to overwhelm the NHS”.
And they said such a change would mean more hospitals have to stop giving non-civid treatment.
Today’s batch of SAGE papers also claim London may be less badly-hit so far because it has “some degree of immunity”.
It could also be down to Londoners being more cautious because the capital was hit harder in the first wave, the loss of tourism and different “levels of deprivation”, SAGE said.