BRITS will face a deadly double act of flu and Covid this winter amid waning immunity, a top medic has warned.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, says those who catch both illnesses at the same time are twice as likely to die than patients with coronavirus alone.
It comes after health chiefs warned of what could be the worst flu death toll in 50 years, with up to 60,000 fatalities predicted this winter.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky, Dr Harries said the public "should be worried about the flu each winter".
"On average over the past five years, around 11,000 people have died [per year] with flu-related conditions," she said.
"The important thing about this winter is that we're likely to see flu, for the first time in any real numbers, co-circulating with Covid.
"The risks of both together still remain.
"The early evidence suggests you're twice as likely to die from the two together than just Covid alone."
She admitted the winter ahead is "uncertain", with "relatively high" cases of Covid in the UK.
"We do monitor cases routinely, and we do have a relatively high starting point of Covid," she said.
"It's a high starting point to kick off winter."
In a separate interview with Andrew Marr, she said "behaviours have changed" as lockdowns and social distancing guidelines ended.
And despite high numbers of vaccinations across the UK, Dr Harries said it's "one of the most difficult times to predict what will come".
'AN UNCERTAIN WINTER'
But she said the tide is turning against Covid – even as around 120 people continue to die of the disease every day.
"For an average flu season there are 11,000 deaths in a year," she said.
"That's between 4,000 and 22,000 over the past four to five years.
"We are starting to move to a situation where Covid is perhaps not the most significant element [in fatalities], and many individuals will have other co-morbidities making them vulnerable."
Earlier this week, deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned all eligible Brits to get the flu jab.
Flu this winter is a significant public health concern
“Not many people got flu last year because of Covid restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity as usual," he said.
“We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.”
Meanwhile, cases of grim sickness bug norovirus have risen 40 per cent on the five-year average.
The most recent UK Health Security Agency figures show reports of the nasty bug are up by 37 per cent already, with winter only just starting.
Government scientists had already warned rates of the seasonal vomiting and tummy bug could explode from September.
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