Britain is facing a second coronavirus peak over Christmas and the New Year, MPs have been told.
A joint enquiry into lessons learned from the first wave was told the outbreak in the rest of the country is a month behind North West England.
The evidence was given by one of the country’s top infection modellers who said only a national circuit break will reverse the trend of current increases.
Prof John Edmunds OBE, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “There’s no way we come out of this [second] wave now without counting our deaths in the tens of thousands.
“If we don’t take any additional measures, if we just leave it as it is we’ll see peaks in the North West, probably in the next four to six weeks.
“Then the rest of the country are our weeks behind so we will see peaks around Christmas and the New Year with very severe numbers of cases throughout the UK.”
Prof Edmunds, a member of Sage, was giving evidence before the Science Committee and said the current regional strategy will lead to “a high level of incidence everywhere”.
He added: “I think we are looking at quite a bleak situation unless we take action. We have to attach a knot.
“I don’t think we should be taking action just specifically in the highest risk areas but I think we need to take action everywhere else to stop them getting into that rather perilous position.”
Prof Edmunds said that a vaccine could be available within a few months but it was unlikely the virus would be eradicated.
He added: “We are going to have to live with this virus forever more. There is very little chance that it’s going to become eradicated.
When asked what the chances were of a vaccine being available this winter, he added: “Towards the end of winter – it’s certainly possible.
“I think these things are moving at pace… I think we here in the UK, we will be in a reasonable position in months.
“In fact it’s very important to understand that actually vaccines are not that far away potentially now, and I think that does change what we should do now.
“If vaccines are just round the corner, in my view we should try to keep the incidence as low as we can now because we will be able to use vaccines in the not-too-distant future.”