The Government wants to have the NHS winter-ready, as it anticipates COVID-19 will still be very much in circulation. Mr Hancock’s update came as 37 experts warned that a reasonable worst-case scenario could see 120,000 further coronavirus deaths in the UK by next June. The team was assembled by the Academy of Medical Sciences following a request from the Government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.
The experts warned that the triple whammy of COVID-19, a growing NHS treatment backlog and the potential for a bad flu season could spell disaster.
Study author Professor Stephen Holgate, a respiratory specialist from University Hospital Southampton, said: “Deaths could be higher with a new wave of COVID-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately.
“With relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us.”
The Royal College of Physicians called for all over-50s to be offered the flu jab before winter strikes.
It is now available on the NHS for those most at risk, including over-65s, primary school children and pregnant women.
Mr Hancock said planning was under way to meet high demand for the vaccination. He added: “We all know that having had an incredibly hard six months the next big moment is as winter approaches.
“We want the flu vaccine programme to be the biggest flu vaccine programme in history.”
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