Britain could reach up to 460,000 daily Covid cases by

Britain could reach up to 460,000 daily Covid cases by Eve — forcing 2million people into isolation — if Omicron infections continue to increase as quickly as some scientists expect, analysis of official figures suggests.

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing huge disruption from people being off work and threatening key services including the , police and national grid.

While government contingency plans call for the military to be called into cover gaps in these services if they are hit by huge shortages, they are untested in the real world. 

The head of Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital trust in — which looks after two of the largest hospitals in the country — this morning revealed 10 dieta per dimagrire velocemente cent of staff are currently off due to Covid.

Chris Whitty warned today that the Omicron wave was going to peak ‘very quickly’, with cases hitting their highest ever daily number yesterday and infections doubling every two or three days.He said the reason the situation was being taken ‘extremely seriously’ was because the NHS was going to face a ‘reduction in supply and increase in demand’. 

If the number of people testing positive — which is much lower than the actual number of infections occurring in the community because not everyone gets swabbed — also doubles every three days, then the UK’s average toll of daily cases could hit 462,704 on Christmas Eve. 

That would force roughly 2million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population. The true toll could be even higher, when their contacts who develop tell-tale symptoms are included.

But SAGE member Professor Andrew Hayward claimed that the true infection number would be much higher than that because the outbreak is spreading faster than tests can keep up. 

But Cambridge statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter described models predicting infections doubling every two days as ‘not sensible’ because people will not continue to socialise to the same level as prior to the discovery of Omicron. Others insisted it was ‘impossible’ that the outbreak would fail to slow down.

And health minister Gillian Keegan said the threat of having to isolate over Christmas is ‘bound to make people a bit more cautious’ in the run-up to the big day, which will have a knock-on effect on cases.  

Scientists have warned testing capacity across the country is likely to be overwhelmed over the coming days, with Government officials hoping to ramp up the country’s PCR base by 150,000 each day.Rapid lateral flow tests were unavailable on the NHS website for the first three days of the week, with the country currently averaging around 790,000 PCR tests a day.

If the number of people testing positive doubles every three days, then there would be 463,704 daily cases on Christmas Eve.That would force the 1.9million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population 

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing ‘huge disruption from people being off work’ and threatening key services including the NHS and police, experts claimed.Graph shows: The number of NHS staff off work with Covid every day over the last two weeks. Dips on December 5 and 12 occurred on Sundays, when fewer staff are working and therefore less absences are expected. Figures are expected to increase in the coming weeks

No10 plans to cover any gaps in NHS staffing, as well as other key services including the police, border force and energy sectors, with military personnel, according to .   

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery today said there were already staff shortages due to the variant. 

She said: ‘Trust leaders are telling us Omicron is already creating staff shortages in the NHS.In Omicron hotspots like London, absences are starting to rise rapidly.’

Ms Cordery revealed the impact on the workloads for remaining staff is a ‘major challenge given the huge service demand currently across the NHS,’ and added: ‘This reinforces why having a jab is so important to protect staff and the public.’ 

Many scientists dispute the Government modelling which suggests Omicron cases will continue to double every two days, saying it does not account for behavioural changes or growing immunity.

Confirmed cases were doubling every week during the peak of the January wave of infections caused by the less transmissible Alpha variant, but that was before vaccines and only a small proportion of the population had prior immunity through infection.