Now Indy SAGE wants us to 'do more' to prevent flu!
Now Indy SAGE wants us to ‘do more’ to prevent flu! Influential member of pro-lockdown group says 300 deaths a day is too many
- Currently 200 daily Covid deaths in England compared to 400 flu in a bad year
- Dr Kit Yates, a member of the Independent Sage pressure group, said too many
- Tweeted: ‘Perhaps it’s time we started talking about doing more to prevent flu’
A pro-lockdown scientist today called on the UK to ‘do more’ to prevent flu as a consensus begins to emerge that the worst of Covid is over.
Parallels between coronavirus and influenza are being drawn now that Omicron is causing around the same number of deaths as a bad flu season.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi revealed that ministers are planning to loosen social restrictions even more by the end of this month amid the ‘promising’ stats.
There are currently 200 daily Covid deaths in England on average as the fourth wave peaks, compared to 400 from flu in a bad year.
But Dr Kit Yates, a member of the Independent Sage pressure group, suggested those rates were not low enough and called for more action to tackle flu.
Dr Yates, from the University of Bath, tweeted: ‘Even if the 200-300 daily flu deaths figure were correct, it doesn’t follow that we should be doing less to prevent Covid deaths.
‘Perhaps it’s time we started talking about doing more to prevent flu.’
Independent Sage has consistently pushed for an Australian-style Covid elimination strategy and most recently demanded a Christmas lockdown.
The group is made up of 12 scientists, including a former Government chief scientific adviser, a Communist Party member and some of No10’s own advisers.
Dr Kit Yates, a member of the Independent Sage pressure group, today called on the UK to ‘do more’ to prevent flu
There are currently 200 daily Covid deaths in England on average as the fourth wave peaks, compared to 400 from flu in a bad year (pictured, Dr Yates’ tweet)
To work out flu deaths, the UK Health Security Agency — formerly Public Health England — estimates them using a statistical model, which looks at the prevalence of flu and excess winter fatalities. The cumulative number of fatalities was estimated to be in the region of 15,000 in 2016/17, with about 300 people dying every day at the peak. In 2017/18, during the Aussie flu outbreak, a total of 22,000 people were killed by influenza, with in excess of 400 dying per day at the worst of the epidemic. But in 2018/19 just 4,000 were estimated to have died to the virus, with just tens of people dying per day at the peak
While Dr Yates did not put forward any specific measures for flu, he later said there were ‘things we can do to prevent the transmission of Covid which are nothing like a lockdown’. MailOnline has approached Dr Yates for comment.
Dr Yates’ comments come just a month after Independent Sage lobbied for a 10-day circuit-breaker lockdown and ‘limited’ mixing at Christmas.
The group published an emergency statement on December 15 that criticised the Government for squandering ‘the opportunity for early action’.
Among the group’s demands were for all indoor retail and hospitality venues to be shut and a blanket ban on cross-household mixing in enclosed spaces.
The statement said: ‘The opportunity for early action has been lost and the time for further delay is over.
‘The situation is so urgent we must take emergency action now and that means it is imperative to reduce contacts.
‘Advice is no longer enough since it does not convey the urgency of the situation…
‘Accordingly we now call for an immediate circuit break to then enable limited mixing from the 25 to 28th December.’
While other UK nations imposed tougher curbs, England stuck to its Plan B suite of measures, including compulsory masks, Covid passports and working from home.
Covid outbreaks now shrinking in 96% of England’s neighbourhoods
Coronavirus cases are now falling in virtually every area of England, official figures show as the Omicron wave continues to collapse with deaths six times lower than in the second wave.
Some 6,519 out of 6,790 neighbourhoods (96 per cent) around the country recorded a fall in infections in the week to January 11, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
It means 54million people are living in places with declining case rates now just eight weeks after Omicron burst onto the scene in late November and sent infections to record levels.
Parts of Castle Point, Shropshire and Bexley have seen infections fall by more than 70 per cent week-on-week.
Deaths – which are the biggest lagging indicator of the trend in infections – are still rising slowly but there are an average of just 212 per day now compared to 1,200 per day at the peak of Alpha wave last January, despite three times more infections this wave.
The weakened link between infections and less severe outcomes is down to protection from the vaccines, natural immunity, antivirals and Omicron, which is thought to be intrinsically milder than older strains.
Mr Zahawi today confirmed reports that Boris Johnson is looking to loosen those curbs even more by the end of the month.
The Government has taken confidence in the collapsing Covid numbers and widening disconnect between cases and serious illness.
Another 84,429 tests came back positive for the virus across the UK in the past 24 hours, according to Government dashboard data, down 41 per cent on last week.
Daily cases have fallen week-on-week for 12 days in a row. There were also 85 coronavirus deaths registered today in a 10 per cent rise compared to last Monday.
Latest hospital data shows there were 2,357 admissions on January 11, virtually unchanged in a week.
MailOnline’s analysis of official numbers suggests 400 people died to influenza daily at the peak of the Aussie flu outbreak in 2017/18 in England, and 300 in 2016/17.
Omicron appears to be peaking at 260 daily deaths across the whole of the UK and around 200 in England.
One of No10’s pandemic modellers today said the relatively low Covid deaths were a sign that the UK could have a ‘flu-type’ relationship with Covid by the end of the year.
Dr Mike Tildesley, who sits on an influential modelling sub-group of SAGE, warned the country ‘was not there yet’ because hospitalisation levels from the virus are still ‘relatively high’ — despite being just a fraction of those seen in previous waves.
But he predicted even milder variants than Omicron would emerge over the course of the year, bolstering the UK’s wall of immunity and creating an even bigger disconnect between infection numbers and hospitalisations and deaths.
Dr Tildesley, a modeller at Warwick University, said the data suggested the pandemic was ‘turning around’ following the Omicron wave, meaning ministers could start discussing what ‘living with’ Covid would be like.
For comparison, there were 1,200 per day at the peak of Alpha last January, despite three times more infections this wave.
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