Professor Tim Spector, head of the Zoe Covid app study, says that Covid cases are set to stay “fairly flat” in the run up to Christmas, but likely to increase in the New Year.
“It looks like it’s going to stay fairly flat – hopefully not get worse before Christmas,” he told Sky News. “After that, I think it will get worse again.”
Currently, there isn’t much difference in case rates regionally, he added, and any significant rise would be caused by children infecting unvaccinated children.
Expanding on those comments to HuffPost UK, he said: “Cases might go up in younger people before Christmas, but it’s going to take a while before it gets to the older groups. And the young, and the old will mix at Christmas.
“That’s what will cause more probably more [hospital] admissions. So I think it’s more about the admissions rate. That will probably go up after Christmas.”
However, Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, says the issue is complex and that we can’t be sure whether infections will continue to increase.
“We have seen for the past few months case numbers being a big like a fair ground ride going up one week, going down the next, but generally drifting upwards,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“This suggests to me that we are close to the endemic equilibrium value and so it gets very difficult to predict what will happen even a week or so later. ”
“As almost all global infectious disease experts have known for months, this virus is here to stay,” he adds. “The other human coronaviruses typically infect us every three to six years and so we can expect to see what appears to be high infection rates for as long as western civilisation survives.”
With cases rising and lockdowns being imposed in some countries in Europe, there are concerns that the UK could also face a lockdown.
Austria has entered a nationwide lockdown, with people only allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons, such as work and exercise. Germany is also battling rising numbers. On Friday November 19, Lothar Wieler, the head of the country’s Robert Koch Institute, declared “a nationwide state of emergency”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is concerned the latest European wave could lead to additional deaths of around 450,000 before February if not contained.
Prof. Spector says he isn’t so concerned about what’s happening in Europe for the UK situation – and that we should look at Israel as an example instead.
“We should probably look at what happened in Israel, who were ahead of us in the vaccine race,” he says. “Then then ran into problems when the vaccine started waning at about four to six months, and they got their booster campaign together. And they’ve got cases under control.”
“But unfortunately, they’ve done a lot better on getting more people with three vaccines boosters than than we have. So I’m not really worried about what’s happening in Europe – I think it’s a completely different scenario there.”
If cases have to potential to increase over Christmas how can we protect ourselves and those around us?
Spector says the best way thing we can do it make sure we’ve vaccinated and to get our boosters as soon as we’re eligible. “Getting a booster should work within a week of getting it to get you to 95% protection. And if you’re worried about your relatives, make sure they have a booster,” Prof. Spector says.
“The other thing is to be aware that cold symptoms are still common at the moment. And about half of all cases of Covid are only presenting as cold symptoms. So, particularly at Christmas, if you’ve got a cold, there’s a one in four chance it’s actually Covid. So, don’t infect others and get a lateral flow test. You know, and keep doing them until you you get better.”
Hunter agrees with this. “The booster campaign will help towards admissions and deaths substantially even though it will not eradicate the virus,” he says.
“Whatever happens between now and New Year we will see further waves of infection next year, though with lower hospitalisation and deaths than we have seen this year. Most of the models I have seen suggest a wave around Easter time.”