Society must live with ‘substantial mortality rate’ from Covid, Sage member says

A Sage member said the UK is heading towards a situation that will be ‘much more like flu’ adding that ‘we will get back to normal’

Ella Glover
Friday 05 March 2021 11:24
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More than 20 million people in UK vaccinated against Covid-19

Society will have to live with a “substantial” degree of mortality until life can “get back to normal,” a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said. 

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at UCL and a Sage member, told Times Radio: “I think, you know, given the societal trade-offs, we are going to have to live with a degree of mortality that will be substantial.

“I think it will get less over time as more people get vaccinated, and as more people get immune, and I do believe that we’ve been through the worst of this.”

Mr Hayward does not think new variants of Covid-19 will completely evade vaccine-related immunity and said that we’re heading towards a situation that will be “much more like flu”.

The numbers of deaths “will be much more like flu, the approach to surveillance of new strains and development of new vaccines and regular annual vaccinations will be like that,” he said. “And we will get back to normal.”

The comments echo a hopeful prediction made last month by Matt Hancock, who suggested that Britain could be living with coronavirus as it does with the flu by the end of 2021, potentially ruling out a “zero Covid” strategy.

The health secretary told the Telegraph: “I hope that Covid-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year.”

He added that new treatments “over the months to come” would help turn Covid “from a pandemic that affects all of our lives into another illness that we have to live with, like we do flu”.

However, scientists have warned that coronavirus mutations are getting “more dangerous” and “more infectious” and have warned against equatng the virus to the flu.

Dr Sarah Pitt, a virologist at the University of Brighton, told the BBC: “It’s not a type of flu. It’s not the same sort of virus. It doesn’t cause the same sort of disease, it’s very, very nasty.”

Professor Steven Riley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group and a top scientist advising the government said the vaccination programme didn’t mean restrictions could be lifted too quickly.

He said: “If for some reason we were to choose to just pretend it (coronavirus) wasn’t here any more then there is the potential to go back to a wave that is a similar size to the one that we are in now.”

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