A top medic has warned that Brits will face a deadly double act of flu and Covid this winter.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, says people who catch both diseases at the same time are twice as likely to die than patients with coronavirus alone.
It comes as health chiefs warned of what could be the worst flu death toll in 50 years, with 60,000 predicted to die this winter.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky, Dr Harris said the public “should be concerned about the flu every winter”.
“On average about 11,000 people have died in the last five years [per year] with flu-related conditions,” she said.
“The important thing about this winter is that we are likely to see flu, for the first time in any real number, co-circulating with Covid.
“The risk of both together still remains.
“Early evidence suggests you are twice as likely to die from covid alone than together.”
She acknowledged that with “relatively high” cases of Covid in the UK, the winter ahead is “uncertain”.
“We monitor cases regularly, and we have a relatively high starting point of COVID,” she said.
“It’s a high starting point to take the winter off.”
In a separate interview with Andrew Marr, she said “behavior has changed” as the lockdown and social distancing guidelines came to an end.
And despite the high number of vaccinations across the UK, Dr Harris said it is “one of the most difficult times to predict”.
‘An uncertain winter’
But she said the tide is turning against Covid – even as around 120 people are dying of the disease every day.
“An average flu season results in 11,000 deaths a year,” she said.
“It is between 4,000 and 22,000 in the last four to five years.
“We are starting to move towards a situation where COVID is probably not the most important element [in fatalities], and many individuals will have other co-morbidities that will make them vulnerable.”
Earlier this week, the deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned all eligible Brits to get the flu jab.
Flu this winter is a significant public health concern
Professor Jonathan Van-Tamo
“A lot of people didn’t get the flu last year because of the Covid restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity as usual,” he said.
“We will see the flu spreading this winter; This may be higher than normal and that makes it a significant public health concern.”
Meanwhile, cases of the critical illness bug norovirus have increased 40 percent on a five-year average.
Recent data from the UK’s Health Protection Agency shows that reports of nasty bugs have already increased by 37 per cent, with just the onset of winter.
Government scientists had already warned of seasonal vomiting rates and stomach worms could burst from September.
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