A leaked report has revealed there could be up to 85,000 coronavirus deaths this winter.
The Sage report, obtained by BBC Newsnight, outlined what it described as a “reasonable worst-case scenario”.
It said there could be 81,000 coronavirus deaths in England and Wales, 2,600 in Scotland and 1,900 in Northern Ireland, the Mirror reports.
It also reveals fresh restrictions could be introduced in lockdowns in a bid to contain the virus but says schools are likely to remain open.
The SAGE report aims to prepare healthcare and council services for all eventualities and it stresses the details are “scenarios not predictions”.
Critics have said the modelling and some of the assumptions may already be out of date.
Earlier this year, the government was warned that there could be 250,000 Covid-related deaths in the UK if nothing was done to stop coronavirus.
As of August 28, there have been 41,486 lives lost in the UK from coronavirus, although the number of excess deaths over the course of the pandemic is more than 60,000
SAGE’s latest prediction assumes that schools will stay open and that the government’s tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40% effective in cutting the spread outside households.
It also suggests that by November restrictions to mitigate coronavirus – other than school closures – could be put in place.
According to the report these measures might be expected to remain in place until March 2021.
The model said there could be 27,000 more excess deaths in England and Wales from non-Covid causes.
While the model is by no means a prediction and subject to “significant uncertainty”, the reasonable worst case scenario is used to inform government planning decisions.
We send a range of newsletters each day – sometimes twice a day – on the latest news, up to the minute breaking stories, information on coronavirus and the latest Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC football stories.
Just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up form and select which you’d like to receive.
Professor Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, said some of the assumptions made in the model were “implausible” and that the report assumes that “we’ve learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease”.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, told the BBC the report had “very wide ranges” of scenarios which make it “quite difficult for people to work out exactly what they should be doing”.
Professor Heneghan said these centralised big picture models were “unhelpful” and better local surveillance data was needed.
In response to Friday’s leaked report, a UK government spokesperson said: “As a responsible government we have been planning and continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst case scenario.
“Our planning is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”
Meanwhile Health Secretary is today warning the UK a second wave of nationwide restrictions could come this winter in the event of a second wave.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Hancock said countries in others parts of the world were already experiencing a second wave, adding it was “a very serious threat”.
But he said the UK was managing to keep the number of new cases “flat” through the test and trace system and local lockdowns.
Describing the worst-case scenario, he said the UK could be battling bad flu and a growth in coronavirus as people spend more time indoors.
He continued: “Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action.
“We don’t rule that out, but we don’t want to see it.”