THE UK is facing a "problematic" Christmas as Covid has begun "penetrating" the older vulnerable groups, an expert warned this morning.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the UK is "running quite hot" with high cases and rising deaths – a concern this early into the colder months.
Hopes of a normal Christmas are starting to increase, but with no enforced social distancing and high case rates continuing – with flu still to come – scientists are worried.
Prof Van-Tam told the BBC: "Christmas, and indeed all of the darker winter months, are potentially going to be problematic.
"Deaths are increasing – there might be some artefacts in the very latest figure – but essentially deaths are increasing.
"If you then look at hospital admissions, those have plateaued in the last four days. And if you look at the total number of patients in hospital with Covid, those have gone down in the last two or three days, but only a small bit.
"So what that tells me is that we have to just wait and see a bit longer – this could be a pause before things go up, it could be the very first signs that things are beginning to stabilise but at a high rate.
"On cases, they are now starting to fall, but that mainly reflects the fact that this big wave we've had in teenagers is now starting to slip away.
"But my worry is that the deaths are increasing and that shows that the infection is now starting to penetrate into those older age groups."
It comes as the government ramps up the booster programme – much needed to protect the older and more vulnerable people over winter.
Many of those over-50's who were in the first waves of the jab rollout are coming to the end of their high immunity and need the top up.
The fact that more people are now dying from the killer bug indicates that those who are more vulnerable – likely elderly – are catching the virus while now no longer fully protected.
Prof Van-Tam explained this is why it's more important than ever to get the booster shot when people are eligible.
He added "also if you are called for your flu vaccine, please go and get them – this could be really very important this winter, it is not the time to be complacent."
Covid infections are very high across the UK, with millions of eligible Brits yet to have the third jab and the rate is slowing.
Experts fear it could mean swathes of people who are not fully protected mixing over the festive season.
Figures show a record 1.6 million had a booster last week. But the daily average fell from 320,000 on Wednesday to 274,000 by Sunday.
It came despite an official ad blitz, relaxed booking rules, walk-in clinics and shorter waits for the most vulnerable.
The Sun’s Give Britain a Booster campaign is encouraging people to get a third jab.
Prof Van-Tam added: "Too many people believe that this pandemic is now over. I personally feel there are some hard months to come in the winter and it is not over."
"The rates are still very high at the moment, they are higher than most of Europe – we are running quite hot and of course it's a concern to scientists that we are running this hot this early in autumn.
"And so, from that perspective, I'm afraid it's caution, followed by caution, and we need to watch these data very carefully indeed over the next days and weeks.
"I would say we are half time in extra time and i think the final whistle in terms of… I can't predict it but my personal view is that we have a few more months to run and i think we will be in a calmer set of waters by spring.
"But I think until then caution, be very careful – this is not quite over and vaccines, boosters are really important."
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