• Chief scientific adviser says second covid-19 peak should be avoided
  • But winter will be difficult due to higher flu rates, Sir Patrick Vallance says
  • Facilities being mothballed ahead of winter pressure

The UK should be able to avoid a second peak of covid-19 infections but this coming winter will be “extremely difficult” for the NHS, the government’s chief scientific adviser has said.

Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs that avoiding a second peak of infections would be dependant on an effective test, track and trace system and keeping social distancing measures at the right level.

He told the Health and Social Care Committee today that the government’s plan now is to get the number of new cases back down to a “manageable” level so the new system would be able to spot local outbreaks early.

Sir Patrick’s comments come as the number of covid-19 hospital admissions drops day-by-day and some facilities, such as the Nightingale Hospital in London, are being mothballed ahead of additional pressures during the winter.

He said: “If we do test track and tracing well and we keep the social distancing measures at the right level we should be able to avoid a second wave.

“[But] winter is going to be extremely difficult when you also have flu circulating and you have all the other respiratory infections which get confused with this.”

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, who also appeared before the MPs, said she was unable to name an exact number that daily new covid-19 cases would need to drop to in order for the test, track and trace system to be effective.

Among the factors that would be considered would be the capacity of contact tracing and results from the trial of the contact tracing app, currently ongoing on the Isle of Wight, she said.