British officials think coronavirus outbreak will go on until spring 2021

British authorities predict that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.K. will last until the spring … of 2021.

Health officials in the country made the stunning estimate in a secret document for the National Health Service (NHS),The Hill reported. They predicted that 80% of Britons will catch COVID-19 and some 15%, 7.9 million people, may need to be hospitalized. The Guardian first reported the news.

Spring 2021

A briefing document prepared for top officials in Britain’s National Health Services estimated that 80% of the population is expected to be infected with COVID-19, a sobering estimate. The chief medical adviser to the U.K.’s government, Prof. Chris Whitty had previously said that the figure is a worst-case estimate, something disputed by the briefing’s text.

“As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalization,” read the briefing, which was seen by the Guardian.

The document also warns that the outbreak could last until the spring of 2021, a scenario that would surely bring system-smashing burdens on the National Health Service and other infrastructure. It also suggests that some 500,000 workers of 5 million in “essential services and critical infrastructure” will be too sick to work at once during the virus’s peak. 1 million of those work for the NHS.

Epidemiologist Paul Hunter said that the virus, if it lasts that long, will become “less severe over time” as people develop immunity: “For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that,” Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia and a specialist in epidemiology, told the Guardian. “A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood,” he added.

“I think it will dip in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, in the way that usual seasonal flu does. I think it will be around forever, but become less severe over time, as immunity builds up.”

Britain under fire over COVID-19 response

Europe is now considered the world’s new hotspot as the virus’s spread slows down in China, where it originated. Britain has so far avoided taking the more drastic measures seen in countries like Italy and Spain, which have placed their populations on lockdown. Britain has asked anyone with a cough to isolate themselves for seven days.

The country now has nearly 2,000 cases and 71 deaths. The British government has been criticized for its response to COVID-19, especially over one proposal to let Britons develop a “herd immunity” by catching COVID-19. The government has continued to send confusing messages about whether “herd immunity” is its policy.

The European Union will close its borders for 30 days, it was reported Tuesday. Britain is no longer a member of the bloc after Brexit.

Pandemic fears

As the virus spreads around the world, fear is being amplified by how little is still known about the novel coronavirus, although researchers are working to rectify that problem. No one knows exactly how long the pandemic will impact the world, and the mortality rate is still being assessed.

Health officials in America have said that any vaccine would likely take up to 18 months to develop, probably too long to be of any use for the current pandemic. Researchers in the United States started the first experimental vaccine trials on Monday in Seattle. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump predicted that the pandemic could last until July or August of this year.

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