'Not out the woods yet': New wave of Covid in Europe could hit UK in weeks, Sage adviser says

  • Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

A new wave of coronavirus which appears to be sweeping through mainland Europe could hit the UK in weeks, a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) briefing has suggested.

Covid-19 numbers are going in the "wrong direction" in many European countries, with Paris about to enter a new month-long lockdown, and there are worries an increase in infections could make its way to Britain.

A government adviser, who sits on Sage, said the UK is often a few weeks behind Europe in terms of infection levels and experts will be watching developments on the continent "very carefully".

Should we be worried about the third Covid-19 wave in Europe? Analysis by our Health Editor:

Despite the UK's comparatively huge success in rolling out coronavirus vaccines, the adviser warned: "It would be wrong to assume we're out of the woods."

The adviser urged people to be cautious, adding how it is not clear why the UK often follows Europe.

Infections levels in the UK are still declining, but the decrease has slowed recently following the first step out of lockdown, which saw schools reopen.

Meanwhile, infection levels in many European countries are rising, with new, faster-spreading coronavirus variants prevalent.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was “concerned” to see reports of a third wave of coronavirus hitting France and warned it is "very likely" to hit Wales.

"The question is not whether it will happen - it's how it will happen and how we will deal with it," he said.

His comments come amid two localised flare-ups in Merthyr and Anglesey in the past week.

He added: “Just as we have seen in Paris over the last few days, France was doing incredibly well only a few weeks ago and are now finding a sudden and significant flare-up.

“Nobody should think that we are immune from that, nobody should think we can drop our guard and plan on the basis that coronavirus has gone away."

Germany's head of public health declared on Friday that the country was "now at the beginning of a third wave."

Half of Italy's 20 regions have gone in to the strictest form of lockdown amid third wave fears.

Members of the Italian military receive their AstraZeneca Covid jab. Credit: AP

In France, President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said there was "no doubt" tighter restrictions were needed as patient numbers in intensive care wards in and around the French capital had skyrocketed in recent days.

And in Poland a new national lockdown is expected after 10,896 new cases were reported on Monday, a jump of more than three quarters compared to last week.

Is the vaccine rollout still on track? Listen to the ITV News Politics Podcast:

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, who spurred the UK's decision to go into lockdown last March, warned that a "significant fraction" of European cases were likely to be of the South African variant, which it is feared the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be less effective against.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK had "strong measures" at the border when asked whether the Government was concerned about rising Covid rates in France and other European countries.

Asked about Prof Ferguson's remarks, a spokesman for the prime minister said: "What I would say in relation to those specific comments, we already have strong measures in place at the border as you will be aware.

  • Listen to our podcast for everything you need to know on the latest Covid developments:

"It is currently illegal to go on holiday and anyone arriving in England has to self-isolate, take two mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight of their 10-day isolation period, and have a negative test before travel as well.

"Modelling is showing that a combination of specific policy options such as pre-departure testing and isolation are effective measures for mitigating the public health risk."

Pressed on whether some EU countries could be placed on the "red list", meaning a stint quarantining in a hotel upon arrival in England, the No 10 spokesman replied: "I would point you back to the wide variety of strong measures that we have in place at the border. "We have them in place and believe them to be strong and robust measures."