This year’s flu season could be bigger and worse as it combines with Covid to create a dangerous ‘twindemic’, doctors have warned.
There are now concerns that the simultaneous onslaught of flu and Covid could overload the NHS, which is already trying to cope with record backlogs.
Figures from the Southern Hemisphere, which usually foretell what will happen in the UK, indicate a flu surge two months earlier than normal, mostly driven by under-30s.
It suggests that a spike in flu hospital admissions in Britain could begin as early as October, also including many children.
This year’s flu season could be bigger and worse as it combines with Covid to create a dangerous ‘twindemic’, doctors have warned
One estimate suggests that the flu season could be twice as large as normal.
Sir Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, told the Mirror: ‘It could come earlier and bigger, then you have a ‘twindemic’ with Covid-19 and that could put real pressure on the NHS.’
In a typical flu season there are between 15,000 and 30,000 hospitalisations due to the virus.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Reading University, also said: ‘We’ve never had a [flu and Covid] dual outbreak so I’m concerned this UK season could be particularly bad.
‘Catching flu and Covid together is particularly dangerous.
‘We have the NHS under huge pressure as it catches up [from the pandemic] so you have a problem there.’
The health service waiting list has hit a record 6.8 million in England, with A&Es often full and ambulances frequently queueing outside with patients they cannot unload
In a typical flu season there are between 15,000 and 30,000 hospitalisations due to the virus
The health service waiting list has hit a record 6.8 million in England, with A&Es often full and ambulances frequently queueing outside with patients they cannot unload.
This also comes as covid may be on the brink of flaring up again, leading experts claimed amid signs that the virus has already bounced back in parts of England.
Official figures released yesterday showed the nation’s outbreak is smaller than it has been for nearly a year, with just 705,000 people in England thought to be infected — roughly one in every 75.
It marked a 9 per cent drop on the Office for National Statistics’ previous weekly estimate.
However, while cases have been plunging nation-wide since mid-July, scientists predict they will inevitably spike again over the coming weeks as people spend more time indoors, pupils return to classrooms and students head back to uni.
Covid infections have already started to rise again, up 20 per cent from two weeks ago, with one in 42 people currently having the virus, latest figures suggest.
Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday (September 19) and ceremonial events held over the last week to mark her passing sparked suggestions that the massive crowds could fuel the spread of the virus.
However, Professor Hunter said he does not believe the events will ‘play much of a role’ in rising rates.
Following the Platinum Jubilee in June, ‘although cases went up, they went up too soon to be due to the Jubilee and it was probably more to do with the school holidays and people going overseas, rather than mass gatherings’, he told MailOnline.
The Women’s Euros, considered another source of mass gathering, had barely ‘any real impact’ on rates either, he added.
Weekly estimates published by the ONS, which are closely watched by the Government, are considered the most accurate way of tracking the shape of the UK’s outbreak.
Unlike the toll of reported infections, which has been wildly inaccurate since the mass testing scheme was wound down in April, it doesn’t rely on Britons testing themselves and reporting the result.
Cases also fell in Wales (28,200, down 11 per cent) and Northern Ireland (33,700, down 12 per cent), although the ONS weren’t entirely confident in the overall trend.
However, in Scotland, prevalence rose to 113,500 – a 9 per cent increase on the previous week.
The figures — reflecting the week ending September 5 — are based on swabs from a representative sample which includes thousands of people.
When broken down by region, it showed that cases were rising in South West and Yorkshire (prevalence of 1.5 per cent) and The Humber (1.3 per cent).
Separate NHS England statistics released two days ago also show a sharp increase in the average number of Covid hospital admissions in the South West, compared to the previous week.
Between September 5 and September 12, the region’s admissions rose by almost a fifth (18.9 per cent) from an average of 43 per day to 52.
But, in total, an average of 519 Covid-infected people were admitted to hospitals with the virus in England in the week to September 12 — eight times lower than levels seen at the peak. Not all of these patients are necessarily ill with the virus.