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Scientists modelled what could happen if the R rate jumps to 1.7 in September – and warned that action must be taken now to avoid a second spike.

Almost 120,000 people could die in hospital this winter in a second wave of coronavirus infections in a “reasonable worst case scenario”, scientists have warned.

A report from the Academy of Medical Sciences – which was commissioned by the government’s chief medical advisor Sir Patrick Vallance – said action must be taken now to avoid a second Covid-19 surge.

The group of 37 experts said hospitals could see 119,900 Covid-19 deaths between September and next June, with a surge in cases coming amid annual winter pressures, including flu.

In this scenario, the R rate – which refers to the number of people an infected person passes the virus onto – would rise to 1.7 from September.

The academic modelling suggests there could be a peak in hospital admissions and deaths in January and February 2021, similar to or worse than the first wave in spring 2020.

The estimations do not include deaths in the community or care homes.

The figures do not take account of potential measures by the government to try and control the rate of transmission – such as lockdown – or the use of drugs like dexamethasone, which has been shown to reduce coronavirus deaths, to treat patients.

Professor Stephen Holgate, a Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology who led the study, said the study was not a prediction, “but it is a possibility”.

“The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of Covid-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately,” he said.

To date, 44,830 people have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus.