UK hospitals could be overwhelmed by COVID and flu cases, potentially leading to further restrictions

Posted on Oct 27, 2021

Today’s new analysis shows that even if COVID-19 related hospital admissions remain stable throughout winter, the healthcare system will likely be overwhelmed by additional flu cases. 

Hospitalisations for COVID-19 in the UK have fluctuated between 6-7k per week since restrictions were lifted in July 2021. Airfinity has modeled what will happen when probable weekly flu admissions are added to these hospitalisations. 

The graph below shows expected COVID-19 weekly hospital admissions with two potential scenarios for flu prevalence. The first is based on flu levels in 2018-19 and the second is based on flu levels in 2017-18 which had a severe flu outbreak. There is wide consensus that this year’s flu season is also likely to be severe. The analysis shows that in both scenarios for flu in the UK this winter the healthcare system will likely be overwhelmed. 

UK Hospitalisation forecasts for COVID-19 and Flu

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In the best case scenario, the UK will reach it’s previous lockdown threshold of 10.5k hospital admissions per week by March 2022. In the worst case scenario, this threshold will be reached by late January 2022. 

Dr Matt Linley, Lead Analyst at Airfinity, says, “Vaccines are doing a great job at keeping COVID-19 hospitalisations down but admissions are unlikely to drop significantly during winter as people are more likely to meet indoors. Flu is back and the consensus is that this year’s flu resurgence is expected to be severe and we could see up to 6.1k hospitalisations a week for flu alone.”

The analysis does not account for the number of people who may be co-infected with COVID-19 and flu. 

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