A UK health chief says hospital cases of Covid will continue to rise even further, and warns this wave could be worse than the last.
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics suggests as many as one in 18 people in Scotland had coronavirus in the last week.
Now the UK Health Security Agency, the body responsible for keeping people safe from Covid, warns hospital admissions will continue to rise.
The agency also says this could impact on the NHS’s ability to treat other illnesses and diseases.
‘Hospital cases will rise’
Speaking on BBC Sunday Morning, the agency’s chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: “What we’re seeing mostly at the moment is a rise in the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, and particularly we’re looking at BA.5 which seems to have a growth advantage.
“So the majority of cases in the UK are now BA.4 and it is BA.5 which is really pushing and driving this current wave.
“It doesn’t look as though that wave has finished yet, so we would anticipate that hospital cases will rise.
“And it’s possible, quite likely, that they will actually peak over the previous BA.2 wave.
“But I think the overall impact, we won’t know.
“It’s easy to say in retrospect, it’s not so easy to model forward.”
Covid numbers impact on NHS
Dr Harries also warns that the NHS will begin to struggle to treat patients with other illnesses if Covid hospital cases continue to rise.
She said: “It matters on a national basis because whilst we have an armament now of vaccines and antiviral treatments, we do have a rise in hospital admissions and occupancy.
“And that means it’s not just Covid that we’re concerned about, but it’s actually our ability to treat other illnesses as well.”
Dr Harries added people should stay at home if they have any coronavirus symptoms, and urged all those eligible for a booster vaccine to take up the offer.
Linda Bauld: ‘We shouldn’t panic’
Dr Harries’s warning comes after Professor Linda Bauld, chief social policy adviser to the Scottish Government, urged people not to panic over the rising case numbers.
Her call is despite 288,200 people in Scotland being infected in the week ending June 24, the highest figure since early April.
She said: “Looking ahead it is likely this wave will burn itself out and then we will be worried about future waves of infection.
“We need to think about the booster programme in the autumn.
“So we shouldn’t panic – it is difficult, but I think we will get through this period.”
When it comes to hospital admissions, Professor Bauld said: “Even if not all of those people are there because of Covid, they have to be treated differently from other patients so that is something that my colleagues are watching very carefully.
“We don’t want some of these rates to go much higher.
“I think things will settle down.
“That’s what we are seeing in Portugal.
“At the moment the main concern for a lot of people is just the sheer disruption of having lots of people off work, including in the NHS.
“So let’s hope we get through this really bumpy patch.”