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Chris Whitty issues worrying Covid warning for next ‘two or three years’

Professor Chris Whitty has issued a fresh warning amid rising coronavirus rates in England warning Covid-19 has “not thrown its last surprise at us”.

England’s chief medical officer said there will be “several” more to come after Boris Johnson delayed stage four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown by up to four weeks.

It comes as the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that Covid-19 case rates in all regions of England are continuing to increase.

PHE said case rates in England among all age groups are continuing to rise and the highest rate is among 20 to 29-year-olds, with 195.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 13, up week-on-week from 123.6.

This is also the age group to see the biggest week-on-week increase.

A study commissioned by the Government found that infection rates are “rising exponentially” among young people.

Speaking at the NHS Confed Conference, Prof Whitty said he is anticipating that case rates will continue to go up in the next few weeks due to the Delta variant being “significantly more transmissible” than the Alpha variant.

“In terms of the medium term, my expectation is that we will get a further winter surge, late autumn/winter surge, and that is because we know that winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses, and therefore it’d be very surprising if this particular highly transmissible respiratory virus was not also favoured,” he said.

Prof Whitty said most people think there will be “further problems over the winter”, adding: “How big they’ll be I think is uncertain, and that partly depends on do we get new variants which can evade vaccines better, and partly depends on how the current wave passes through the UK.

“Then in terms of the medium to longer term, if I look five years out, I would expect us to have polyvalent vaccines which will hold the line to a very large degree against even new variants as they come in and an ability to respond with vaccination to new variants.

“But the period over the next two or three years, I think, new variants may well lead to us having to revaccinate or consider boosting vaccination as they come through.

“So, I think we have to just be aware that Covid has not thrown its last surprise at us and there will be several more over the next period.”

He said there is currently a “further surge” of the virus, adding: “I think the height of that surge is still uncertain and we’ll have to see how this goes over the next several weeks.

“But that will definitely translate into further hospitalisations and, unfortunately, it will undoubtedly translate into further deaths.”

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