Britain could have been hit harder by Covid-19 than other European nations because the past two winter flu outbreaks have only been mild, according to a study.
Researchers say influenza kills the same groups of people as the coronavirus, with both illnesses posing the greatest danger to the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
Public Health England statistics show around 20,000 excess deaths – those of any cause that happen above average – occur from influenza each year.
But only 1,700 extra fatalities were recorded during the 2018/19 outbreak, said lead author Dr Chris Hope who claimed data showed the 2019/20 season was also ‘very mild’.
It means more than 30,000 people in England alone were alive at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic who would have been expected to die in the previous two flu seasons.
Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.
Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.
“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.
Jake Dunning, head of emerging infections and zoonoses [infectious disease spread between humans and animals] at Public Health England, told The Independent there was “very little evidence of a widespread benefit” from wearing them.
Coronavirus tests given to thousands of NHS staff so they could return to work have been found to be flawed and should no longer be relied on, a leaked document reveals.
A memo sent by PHE’s senior lab team flags up several concerns about the tests, despite the fact hundreds of thousands have been carried out