Professor Chris Whitty said some areas had been hit ‘over and over again’ by the virus (Image: Getty Images)

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England's top medic has compared the impact of Covid-19 to the "map of child deaths in 1850" as he warned of the devastating hit to the poorest areas from the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty pointed to similarities between areas of deprivation which have been repeatedly impacted by Covid and the places with high levels of child mortality in the 19th Century.

He also warned there could be a "further winter surge" of the virus as the transmissible Delta variant continues to spread.

Prof Whitty hailed the success of the vaccine rollout in keeping the virus at bay – but warned "Covid has not thrown its last surprise at us".

In a speech to the NHS Confederation conference, the Chief Medical Officer laid bare the impact of the virus on areas of deprivation.

England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty compared the areas hit by Covid to places with high child mortality in the 19th Century
(Image: Getty Images)

He said: "The geographical areas where Covid has hit have been extremely defined, where the biggest problems have been repeated.

"So, you see in situations in Bradford, in Leicester, in bits of London for example, in bits of the north west, you see repeated areas where places have been hit over and over again in areas of deprivation.

"Indeed in many of them, if you had a map of Covid's biggest effects now and a map of child deaths in 1850, they look remarkably similar.

"These are areas where deprivation has been prolonged and deeply entrenched."

Prof Whitty said the NHS needs to look at these areas and say "look, whatever happens, it's going to happen badly here" whether it's cardiovascular disease, cancer, or new infections.

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"Often these are not the areas with the largest number of doctors, nurses and others, and we really need to concentrate on these efforts very seriously," he said.

It comes as cases continue to rise among all age groups as the Delta variant – first detected in India – spreads through the community.

Public Health England data shows the highest rate was among 20 to 29-year-olds, with 195.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 13, up week-on-week from 123.6.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that people aged 18 and over would be able to book their jabs from Friday as medics race to inoculate the public to see off the Delta strain.

Prof Whitty said he expected case rates would continue to rise in the next few weeks as the new variant is "significantly more transmissible" than the Alpha strain, which ripped through the country at the end of last year.

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He said the impact of the current surge was "uncertain" but it would "undoubtedly translate into further deaths."

Prof Whitty also warned of problems during the colder months.

"My expectation is that we will get a further winter surge, late autumn/winter surge, and that is because we know that winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses, and therefore it'd be very surprising if this particular highly transmissible respiratory virus was not also favoured," he said.

He said there were likely to be "further problems over the winter" but it was uncertain how serious the situation would be.

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"So, I think we have to just be aware that Covid has not thrown its last surprise at us and there will be several more over the next period," he added.

There were low levels of flu last winter due to lockdown rules but Prof Whitty warned it could return this winter, heaping pressure on the NHS.

He said: "So, either we will have a very significant Covid surge, people will minimise their contacts and we will have less respiratory viruses, or people will be back to a more normal life, there will be some Covid but on top of that we will go back to having a flu surge, an RSV surge in children, and so on.

"I think we need to be aware of and brace for the fact that the coming winter may well be quite a difficult one."