KEY POINTS

  • England is projected to see soaring numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalization in 2021
  • Closing schools in Tier 4 areas could reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths by 102,000
  • Researchers urge the British government to accelerate the rollout of vaccines

A preliminary study released Wednesday estimated that the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the United Kingdom will likely cause more hospitalizations and deaths in 2021.

England is projected to get hit with another wave of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the summer of 2021, according to a study by the Center for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The new variant, referred to as “VOC 202012/01,” appears to be 56% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain. The new variant is rapidly spreading across South East England, London, and the East of England.  

Researchers found that areas under the “Tier 4 restrictions, schools closed” may need 3,360 spaces in the Intensive Care Unit between Dec. 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021. The U.K. may also see an additional 375,000 hospitalizations and 102,000 deaths within the same timeframe. 

If the British government vaccinates 200,000 citizens per week, the number of deaths could fall to 83,300 and hospitalizations could be reduced to 335,000. 

British health minister Matt Hancock said the U.K. sees an average of 1,909 coronavirus-related hospitalizations each day. There are also 18,943 COVID-19 patients currently admitted in hospitals. 

The researchers, led by epidemiologist Nicholas Davies, warned that a lack of substantial vaccine rollout would cause the numbers of cases, admissions and deaths to exceed those in 2020. 

“That kind of pace wouldn’t really be able to support much relaxation of any of the control measures,” Davies said. “It may be necessary to greatly accelerate vaccine rollout.”

Davies and his colleagues also found that closing schools until February could slow the spread of the virus. 

The U.K. government initially estimated that the new variant is 70% more transmissible. Scientists have yet to find evidence that the new strain is deadlier than the original strain. Concerns over the mutated virus prompted officials to impose Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions on Saturday in most parts of southeast England, London and Wales. 

Countries including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark and France have imposed travel bans on England since the lockdown on Saturday. The United States and Britain have already begun vaccination campaigns The United States and Britain have already begun vaccination campaigns Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA