Lincolnshire health bosses have warned of a potential Autumn COVID-19 wave, with more to follow, following a slight increase in cases.
It comes as concerns rise the UK could follow in the footsteps of southern hemisphere countries like Australia and New Zealand who saw an early flu spike.
Professor Derek Ward told Lincolnshire County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday that there had been 639 positive cases over the past week. A “slight increase” on the previous week.
However, he added: “As you’re all aware, the fact we aren’t routinely testing anymore, and the fact its been stood down in the NHS and care homes as well – means this could only be a very much the tip of an iceberg, or it might be a ice cube, we don’t know because we’re not testing.”
Hospital bosses also confirmed that there were 82 COVID-positive patients as of that morning. During the first wave in April 2020 the figure reached around 103 cases.
“Whether this is the beginning of an ascent or it’s just a delay we’ll have to wait and see but the international evidence and the epidemiology would suggest we are going to see an autumn wave – how big I don’t know yet – and then we will probably see a second wave in January or February,” said Professor Ward.
He told the committee that if there was an early flu spike it could be mid-October to early November and could clash with any COVID wave.
He urged people to get their vaccinations for both flu and COVID-19 when offered, adding: “It may not stop you catching Omicron, but it will almost certainly reduce the severity of the disease as it manifests itself.”
Speaking following the meeting, Professor Ward said that the government policy of reducing testing meant “we don’t know for sure how much COVID there is in the population.”
“It’s only going to be a small proportion of the real number of cases that we’ve got in the population, so its an indicator but its not like it was earlier on in the pandemic where it was pretty accurate because people were testing when they had symptoms.”
Professor Ward wasn’t certain if the cost of tests was putting people off but said that when they were free previously there had been “huge numbers” taking them regularly and helping reduce transmission.
“If we’re not testing people who’ve got to work even though they’ve got symptoms because they can’t afford to test or they can’t afford to miss work, and not testing people who haven’t got symptoms but are positive, we’re never going to pick them up and that’s where the asymptomatic testing was really useful.”
Professor Ward didn’t expect lock-downs to come back in, but suggested routine testing may return.
However, he said people should not forget the lessons of the COVID pandemic and should continue to remember the Hands, Face, Space messaging, social distancing guidance and remember to get their COVID jabs or boosters when offered.