Experts are also predicting an unprecedented spike in influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) infections due to a lack of natural immunity as a result of lockdowns and mask wearing.
A summer report commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, projected flu deaths could reach 60,000 this winter in a worst-case scenario. Report authors also warned that RSV cases could reach twice their normal levels leading to paediatric intensive care units being overwhelmed.
And there are fears that the flu jab could fail because global Covid-19 surveillance prevented laboratories gathering sufficient data on the dominant variants.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) made the recommendation about what to put in northern hemisphere jabs in late
February, but vaccine makers say that global genetic sequencing of flu had dropped by up to 94 per cent in the months preceding the decision.
So the Government now finds itself on the horns of a dilemma. While imposing new mask or home working rules may give some respite to a struggling NHS, it will again prevent natural immunity from building, storing up problems for next winter.
If we are not careful, Britain could find itself in an ongoing loop of restrictions long after the Covid-19 pandemic has abated.