By Xantha Leatham
Covid admissions to hospital could reach double their January peak within weeks, according to scientific advisers.
Despite case numbers flattening and little sign of an upcoming surge, Sage modellers suggested daily hospitalisations could reach 7,000 a day.
Their models influenced the Government’s decision to outline fresh Covid curbs. But analysis of the figures indicates there may be no need for panic.
Cases vs hospitalisations
Latest hospitalisation data shows 688 people were admitted with Covid in England on Monday. That day, 21,416 people tested positive for the virus.
This suggests that in order to reach 7,000 hospitalisations, daily case rates might need to be around 217,000.
The highest daily cases England has recorded so far – 72,494 – was on December 29 in the midst of winter and before the vaccine rollout.
Impact of the vaccine
The day that most patients were hospitalised came on January 12, with the number hitting 4,134 in England.
The same day there were 44,667 cases of Covid, indicating that around one in ten of those who caught the virus had to go to hospital.
But at that point only 2.2million English residents had been vaccinated, compared with more than 40million now.
Last week, only around one in 31 recorded cases resulted in a hospital admission, demonstrating the clear effect the vaccine is having. The odds of being admitted after catching the virus have decreased enormously.
The models will not have factored in the effect of vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds or giving booster doses to 30million people – because these policies have only just been announced.
As a result, the most vulnerable will continue to have a strong defence against catching or becoming seriously ill with the virus this winter.
The current estimate for R – the rate of reproduction – in England is between 0.9 and 1.1. The R-rate used to model the scenario of 7,000 hospitalisations a day is 1.5. This would signify a large increase in transmission of the virus.
The last time the R-rate was 1.5 came on July 9, shortly after the Government had started to lift restrictions but before many younger people had received two doses of the jab.
A month later, on August 6, the R-rate had come down again to 1.1.
Admitted for other reasons
Earlier this year, it was revealed that a quarter of Covid hospitalisations were of patients primarily admitted to wards for other reasons.
Official NHS data showed that of a sample of 5,021 patients classed as hospitalised by the virus, 1,166 were receiving care for other reasons.
It is unclear whether the scientists took this into account when creating their models.
Length of stay in hospital
According to analysis by Public Health England, of the 492,528 Delta variant cases between February 1 and August 29, 17,364 required a visit to A&E.
Of these, 4,923 resulted in an overnight inpatient admission – less than a third.