This is according to a report from the Academy of Medical Sciences.
It suggests a second wave of virus infections would be a ‘serious risk to health’ in the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Factors such as the possibility of a flu epidemic and a backlog of patients would put additional pressure on the usual challenge of winter, it suggests.
For example, conditions such as heart attacks, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsen during the colder months.
Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21 calls for ‘intense preparation’, with arrangements taking place throughout the rest of July and August.
- Minimising transmission of coronavirus in the community. For example a public information campaign
- Reorganise health and social care staff and facilities to maintain COVID-19-free zones
- Increase capacity of the test, trace and isolate programme
- Guard against the worst effects of flu.
The report acknowledges a high degree of uncertainty but suggests a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ for the coming months.
According to the research, this will be when Rt value rises to 1.7 from September 2020 onwards.
Possibility, not prediction
Chairing the report, Professor Stephen Holgatee believes the next two months are a ‘critical window’ for successful preparations.
‘This is not a prediction, but it is a possibility,’ he said. ‘The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of COVID-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately.’