The UK must prepare now for a potential new wave of coronavirus infections this winter that could be more serious than the first, says a new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences released on Tuesday 14 July
Combined with the disruption already created in the health service by COVID-19, a backlog of patients needing NHS assessment and treatment, and the possibility of a flu epidemic, this poses a serious risk to health in the UK.
These new pressures are in addition to the challenge winter usually presents to the NHS, when other infectious diseases are more common and conditions such as asthma, heart attack, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke tend to worsen.
The ‘Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21’ report stresses that ‘intense preparation’ is urgently needed throughout the rest of July and August to reduce the risk of the health service being overwhelmed and to save lives this winter. This includes:
- Minimising transmission of coronavirus in the community, with a public information campaign for all, as well as advice tailored to individuals and communities at high risk.
- Reorganising health and social care staff and facilities to maintain COVID-19 and COVID-19-free zones, and ensure there is adequate PPE, testing and system-wide infection-control measures to minimise transmission in hospitals and care homes.
- Increasing capacity of the test, trace and isolate programme to cope with the overlapping symptoms of COVID-19, flu and other winter infections.
- Establishing a comprehensive, near-real-time, population-wide surveillance system to monitor and manage a winter wave.
- Guarding against the worst effects of flu with a concerted effort to get people at risk, and health and care workers safely vaccinated.