Health chiefs are braced for a “bumpy ride” over the coming months amid fears that the latest wave of Covid will drive hospitalisations to their highest in more than a year and seasonal flu pressures could hit early.

© Provided by The GuardianPhotograph: Kathy deWitt/Alamy

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme that hospital cases with Covid were expected to rise in the weeks ahead, with admissions likely to exceed the April peak driven by the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that Covid infections in the UK soared by more than half a million in a week at the end of June in the latest wave driven by even more transmissible variants of Omicron known as BA.4 and BA.5.

“It doesn’t look as though that wave has finished yet, so we would anticipate that hospital cases will rise. And it’s possible, quite likely, that they will actually peak over the previous BA.2 wave,” Harries said. “But I think the overall impact, we won’t know. It’s easy to say in retrospect, it’s not so easy to model forward.”

At its peak in April, the BA.2 wave in England hospitalised more than 2,000 people a day, making it more dangerous than the first Omicron wave in January. The most deadly wave of the pandemic so far came in January 2021 when the Alpha variant pushed daily hospitalisations in England above 4,000 in the early weeks of the vaccination programme.


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