A team of British scientists have predicted that deaths in 2021 could exceed those in 2020 without a more substantial vaccine rollout.
They warned that the variant is so contagious that new control measures, including closing down schools and universities, might be necessary. Even that may not be enough, they noted, saying, “it may be necessary to greatly accelerate vaccine rollout.”
The UK shattered the daily record number of cases today after 53,135 new coronavirus were recorded in the last 24 hours. A further 414 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive test, amid warnings that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed as infections surge across the country.
Nicholas Davies, the lead author of the study, said that their model should serve as a warning to other countries where the variant may have already spread.
“The preliminary findings are pretty convincing that more rapid vaccination is going to be a really important thing for any country that has to deal with this or similar variants,” the epidemiologist noted.
3) “Without a more substantial vaccine rollout, they warned, “cases, hospitalizations, I.C.U. admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020.”— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) December 29, 2020
The variant, which came to the attention of British researchers earlier this month, has been rapidly spreading in London and eastern England. It carries a set of 23 mutations, some of which may make it more contagious.
Mathematical models built by the researchers suggest the number of new cases, as well as hospitalisation and deaths, could well exceed the numbers seen in 2020 next year if there isn’t a more substantial vaccine rollout.
Closing schools until February could buy Britain some time, the researchers found, but lifting those extra restrictions would then cause a major rebound of cases.
Reopenings of schools next week is likely to be delayed as part of measures to tackle soaring coronavirus case numbers, scientists advising the Government have suggested, but there is no indication that it will last until February.
Researchers say the UK will have to ramp up vaccinations by a factor of 10 to support much relaxation of any of the control measures.
“It’s not a forecast, it’s not a prediction, it’s not saying this will happen,” Davies said. “It is saying that if you don’t take it seriously, this is the kind of thing that could very easily happen.”