Hope for summer holidays but Britons should prepare for hard winter, Dr Susan Hopkins says

THERE’S hope for summer holidays this year – but Brits face a “hard winter” as flu makes a deadly return, a top Government adviser has warned.

Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins said the UK is likely to see “surges in flu” and other viruses because public health measures taken to tackle Covid mean fewer of us will be immune this year.

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Summer holidays will be back on the table for Brits this year – but they’ll come at a cost, a leading medic has warned[/caption]

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Dr Susan Hopkins says the NHS must brace for a challenging autumn and a hard winter[/caption]

Social distancing, hand-washing and lockdowns mean the public will be vulnerable to other types of illness when the chill returns next winter, she told BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Despite that, the medic predicted we’ll “all hopefully have our summer holidays” – although the Government will need “options available for the country in case things are not as satisfactory as we’d all like them to be”.

It comes as:

  • Summer holidays may be cut and and the school day extended, Gavin Williamson says
  • An Ofsted chief says she hopes children will only have to wear masks in class until Easter
  • The EU has begged the US to send AstraZeneca jabs as it plays catch-up with the UK
  • A loophole means pubs without a beer garden can still open to punters on April 12
  • Almost a million people have arrived in the UK since the discovery of a mutant strain of Covid

And she said the NHS must be prepared for a “difficult autumn”.

“We have to prepare for a hard winter, not only with coronavirus,” she said.

“We’ve had a year of almost no respiratory viruses of any other type, and that means potentially that the population immunity to that is less.

“We could see surges in flu, we could see surges in other respiratory viruses and other respiratory pathogens.”

And while the medic says she hopes for a “normal winter”, she stressed that “being prepared” will be “really important” for the NHS.

“My job is to advise the Government and prepare for worst case scenarios,” she added.

Schoolchildren will return to class tomorrow across the country in the first step of Boris Johnson’s “cautious but irreversible” roadmap out of lockdown.

All legal limits on social contact won’t be removed until at least June 21.

And while that date has already been hailed as “freedom day” by some, “six months is a long time” in current circumstances, Dr Hopkins said.

She warned lockdown could go on for longer than Brits might hope – and said: “It’s really difficult to predict what’s going to happen in the future.”

During the same interview, Dr Hopkins said schools should remain open even if the R rate rises – because the success of the UK’s jabs roll-out means the link between surging cases and deaths is being severed.

Dr Susan Hopkins spoke days after Sage scientists confirmed the R rate has risen
Dr Hopkins spoke days after Sage scientists confirmed the R rate has risen

She acknowledged cases could spike – but said schools shouldn’t close again.

“We will watch and wait and look carefully,” she told Mr Marr.

“That’s why we’re doing so much testing.

“It’s to try and find those cases that may have asymptomatic infections, and so reduce the risk of transmissions in and around the school environment and keep the R rate at the lowest rate possible.”

Mr Marr asked: “If it does go above one, at that point do you think we should pause children going back to school?”

Dr Hopkins replied: “I don’t think we should pause.

“There are three weeks before the Easter holiday.

“I think we will have time to look at the data carefully over that period, and then the data in the Easter holidays, to see how things are responding.”

This week, it was revealed the R has crept back up again – and may even be as high as 1 in some areas.

The figure is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage scientists say.

But this morning, Dr Hopkins suggested the R rate may soon stop dominating decisions on schools closures and lockdowns.