500,000 people a day will show Covid symptoms this winter, says expert

An expert working with the Government on coronavirus response says half a million people will show coronavirus symptoms every day in the UK this winter.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the Government would need to “dramatically” increase Covid-19 testing to half a million people per day if testing was to cope with demand during winter.

The director of University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s analysis that it could take weeks to sort the current delays was “concerning”.

Prof Hayward continued: “The background to this of course is that we would expect the demand and the capacity to need to rise quite rapidly over the autumn and winter as the number of people who develop symptoms that could be Covid increase.

“Some of our research has shown that at least in the winter, you would expect about half a million people a day to develop symptoms that are typical of Covid – and that would be in a winter when there was no Covid – so you can see that the capacity requirements will have to increase dramatically if we are going to keep up.”

Asked whether capacity could serve such a demand, he added: “I think it is possible from a laboratory perspective, I think perhaps one of the more challenging bits is making sure people can be tested close to home because that is one of the key delays at the moment in the system.

“It is those delays that effect the effectiveness of the system.”

His warning comes after the Government rationed coronavirus tests across the UK because of a rise in demand.

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