UK 'absolutely' preparing for second Covid-19 peak and may not see back of virus for 'several years'

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

The UK is "absolutely" preparing for a second peak of coronavirus, despite a "definite and sustained decline" in new cases, the deputy chief medical officer for England has said.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, speaking at the government's daily coronavirus update, said the risk in new peaks will only be truly averted when a vaccine is found, but he added "we can't be sure" that will ever happen.

"We may need to live and learn to live with this virus in the long term and certainly for many months to come, if not several years," Prof Van-Tam said.

Social distancing had worked so far in reducing the spread of the virus, he added, but warned there may be an increase in cases when the season changes.

"It may well be that the autumn and winter conditions provide a better environment for the virus to then do its work again.

"So we have to be very cautious about that and plan for these kind of health care surges that we hope we don’t need but we want to be ready for them if they happen."

He said people, including himself, had been "hoping and praying that this virus will just go away" but warned only once there was a vaccine that is “really capable of suppressing disease levels” will the country be “out of this”.

He was speaking at the press conference alongside Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Prof Van-Tam also said that it “does not seem” that children are “high-output transmitters” of coronavirus like they are with the flu.

He said that most children have only “extremely mild” Covid-19 symptoms and the infection rate among them is “about the same” as in adults, but “possibly a little lower” in younger aged children.

Prof Van-Tam said the “data are pretty sparse at the moment” with regards to children’s ability to transmit the virus to adults.

  • Carl Dinnen analyses the latest coronavirus briefing

“But the experts have already had a look at this and formed a conclusion that unlike influenza, unlike flu, where we are very clear that children drive transmission in the community to adults, it really does not seem to be the same kind of signal with Covid-19, that children are not these kind of big high output transmitters as they are with flu,” he added.

Mr Van-Tam also explained why a new symptom - the loss of smell or taste - had been added to the list of recognised coronavirus indicators on Monday morning.

Anosmia was added to the list on Monday morning, despite some countries recognising the symptom weeks ago and many UK coronavirus sufferers saying they had experienced it.

He said just 0.44% of people with coronavirus had reported anosmia on its own as a symptom, but said the change in advice had been made to ensure such cases were not missed.

On Monday afternoon Health Secretary Matt Hancock said anyone experiencing the symptom, or any others related to coronavirus, can now book a test if they're over the age of five.

The update follows new figures from the Department of Health, which said at least 34,796 people had now died with coronavirus as of 5pm on Sunday.

The figure is up by 160 from 34,636 the day before.

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