The UK is unlikely to see a return to normality this year despite the planned lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks, Professor Chris Whitty has warned.
England’s chief medical officer predicted further waves of the virus could make for a ‘difficult winter’, with the NHS put under pressure once again.
Prof Whitty suggested it will take ‘quite a long time’ to get back to the pre-pandemic status quo, adding that he would be ‘surprised’ if we did so before the spring.
He urged the nation to ‘push hell for leather’ to keep infection rates down and roll out the vaccines to prevent a significant increase in long Covid.
Speaking at a conference of local government officials, Prof Whitty said: ‘A lot of this is going to be around dealing with the next wave and what I think for the NHS will be quite a difficult winter.
‘I think there’ll almost certainly be a Covid surge and that will be on top of a return to a more normal respiratory surge.
‘It’s going to take quite a long time I think to get back to a normality and I certainly would be surprised if we got back to what most of us see as a kind of status quo before the next spring.’
Although he expects coronavirus deaths will ‘mercifully’ be lower in this wave thanks to the vaccine roll out, Prof Whitty said there could be ‘significant’ amounts of younger people – where rates of vaccination are lower – suffering from longer-term effects.
He said: ‘Since there’s a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up, I regret to say I think we will get a significant amount more long Covid particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower.
‘Fundamentally the two ways to prevent long Covid in my view are to keep Covid rates right down and make sure everyone is vaccinated so they get very mild disease and I think we really just need to push hell for leather for those two.
‘The deaths from Covid I think are mercifully going to be much lower in this wave compared to the previous ones as a proportion of cases but long Covid remains, I think, a worry.
‘We don’t know how big an issue it’s going to be but I think we should assume it’s not going to be trivial.’
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested 385,000 people in the UK had experienced long Covid lasting for at least a year.
The estimates said 962,000 people experienced long Covid in the four weeks to June 6.
Fatigue was the most common symptom, followed by shortness of breath, muscle aches and difficulty concentrating.
Those aged 35 to 69 were most likely to report the condition, as were women and those working in the NHS, social care or living in deprived areas.
It comes after a study found that only a small proportion of cases of long Covid are being recorded by GPs.
READ MORE: The seven signs that you may have ‘long Covid’
READ MORE: Experts unsure if jabs will stop long Covid but hopes grow for current sufferers
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