UK ‘tripledemic tsunami’ to stretch NHS winter resilience

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The UK entered a potentially dangerous winter on December 1, with experts concerned the cold will encourage viruses to multiply. Britons will remember the Covid peak of 2021 when the Omicron variant caused a case, death and hospitalisation surge. With everyone fully vaccinated and cases much less prominent, people may feel more confident this year, but a “tripledemic” looms on the horizon.

Three viruses are feared to affect the UK this winter.

Covid cases are rising as flu infections multiply alongside the lesser-known respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The three-pronged assault has experts concerned people will have to reckon with a viral “tsunami”.

Speaking to, Dr Quinton Fivelman, Chief Scientific Officer at the London Medical Laboratory, said the NHS is preparing for cases to peak as the festive season reaches its “height”.

He said: “There’s little doubt a ’tripledemic’ winter is coming.

“The NHS is preparing for Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases to peak at the height of the holiday season.

“The expected ‘twindemic’ of Covid and flu has already been described by health professionals as a perfect storm.

“If that’s the case, the ‘tripledemic’ created by the addition of spiralling RSV must be described as a tsunami, set to lash UK health services.”

The coming wave of infections will likely push NHS plans, he added, as the health service anticipates a busy season ahead.

Dr Fivelman warned that each virus would spread with increased contact, namely families getting together for Christmas.

He said: “It is likely that the expected ‘tripledemic’ will stretch NHS England’s existing winter resilience plans significantly.

“Covid levels, though currently stable, remain high.”

“They are expected to rise once again as friends and family get together around Christmas.

“Flu cases are also expected to soar this winter, having been artificially kept down for two years by Covid lockdowns.”

RSV is also multiplying, Dr Fivelman added, and infecting some of the UK’s most vulnerable groups.

NHS personnel will meet the challenge at its “peak” period, while some services run on reduced hours.

Dr Fivelman explained: “Finally, RSV cases are already climbing.

RSV is a leading cause of pneumonia in babies and the elderly, causing about 14,000 hospital admissions and 8,000 deaths in the UK, even in an average year.

The latest RSV figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show 23.4 percent of children under five presenting with respiratory symptoms last week had the virus, a concerning number.

“The NHS is facing this ‘tripledemic tsunami’ at its peak Christmas period, the worst time possible, as many surgeries and pharmacies will be working restricted seasonal hours.”

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