THE Covid death toll may hit 220,000 in the pandemic fallout, according to Sage documents.
New official estimates show 161,000 Brits could have died by the end of next month, including 120,000 struck down directly by the bug.
Experts also warned of a mortality time-bomb sparked by the virus – with cancer treatments delayed, job losses and mental health problems due to lockdown.
They feared this could impact the next 50 years, with Sage papers from mid-December published today, estimating up to 61,000 extra deaths directly due to the shutdowns.
Leading scientists wrote: “Evidence suggests that the recession resulting from Covid-19 and restrictions on activities could have large effects on lives through unemployment, mental health, decreases in income and wealth and increased financial and employment uncertainty.”
But a Government source pointed out this model didn’t outline what the death toll would have been if the country had not been plunged into restrictions.
They also added the negative effects of the lockdowns, and damage to the economy, had been expected to be bad.
And Prof Karl Friston, Professor of Imaging Neuroscience, UCL, and panellist on the ‘Independent SAGE’, said the harrowing scenario “is not meant to be read as an estimate of what is likely to happen – just what could happen under some simplifying assumptions about public health and socio-behavioural responses”.
The UK topped 100,000 Covid deaths this week, with a Sage adviser warning we would likely see at least 150,000 in total.
Appearing on BBC Newsnight, Professor Calum Semple said: “It would really not surprise me if we’re looking at another 40,000 or 50,000 deaths before this burns out.
“The deaths on the way up are likely to be mirrored by deaths on the way down and each one again is a tragedy and each one represents also probably four or five people that survive but are damaged by Covid.”
This week Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I’m sorry to have to tell you that today the number of deaths recorded from Covid in the UK has surpassed 100,000.
“It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic – the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended, and for so many relatives, the missed chance even to say goodbye.
“I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.”
The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid onto – is now between 0.7 and 1.1, Sage said today.
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The Government has already ordered 30million doses of the game changing vaccination, developed by pharma giants Johnson & Johnson.
Trials in the US found the jab was 72 per cent effective, while those in South Africa – where the new and more contagious strain is prevalent – found it was 57 per cent effective.
The company also found the vaccine is up to 85 per cent effective in preventing the most serious coronavirus symptoms.