Professor Chris Whitty has warned that Covid-19 will cause problems in the UK for some winters.
The Chief Medical Officer for England said at the recent Downing Street press conference that the vaccination program would have a significant impact on the virus.
However, he warned that, like every year, the UK would have to struggle with other respiratory diseases such as the flu with the virus.
His words came after he was asked if he could predict how many more deaths there could be from the virus.
He said that in the UK a significant number of people died of respiratory disease each year – an average of 9,000, but sometimes many more.
The professor said that for the foreseeable future, the coronavirus will be added to the list of respiratory diseases that claim lives, like the flu.
“People have to see it that way,” he said.
He said vaccination would control the virus but not get rid of it.
“In the UK, as in any other country, significant numbers of people die from respiratory infections every year,” he said.
The flu kills about 9,000 people annually, and bad years are “significantly more,” but there are also pneumonia, adenoviruses, and other respiratory infections.
“I fear that for the foreseeable future the coronavirus will be added to this list of things for which those who – despite being vaccinated – are at risk may be at risk,” he said.
Prof. Whitty said it was “likely to be a problem, especially in winter for the next few winters”.
He also explained the importance of the five-week gap between stages in the roadmap.
Speaking at the press conference, he said, “The reason for this is that we inevitably take a risk for each of these steps that is an accepted risk – there is a risk involved, and I am sure everyone in the country understands that.
“And after each set of risks with a certain set of openings, we want to wait until we have data that tells us whether this did what we expected and whether we actually ended up in a slightly worse place than us thought, or would we actually have ended up in a slightly better place?
“But I think the big concern is that things have gotten a little worse than expected, and we can’t measure that in less than four weeks because it takes so long to see the effect and get the data in and analyzed .
“So that’s the reason for the five-week gap because it lets us see if it has had an impact and then judge if that is material to the next decision.”
Additionally, Prof. Whitty said there are still a “very significant” number of people with coronavirus in the UK every day.
He added: “There are still many people in the hospital with this disease. This is not the end, but this is where we can have a steady, risk-based, data-driven opening.
“But everyone has to stick to the guidelines as they go through the different phases. If we don’t, we will reach a stage where prices go very high and you will find that there are people who are not protected by the vaccinations.
“These are not 100% effective, as the Prime Minister said.”
The government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, “fully” agreed with Prof. Whitty, adding, “The caution of walking every five weeks is very important as we need to measure to avoid going blind.
“We need to know how the opening steps work.”