Swine flu 'may claim 65,000 lives'
Grim estimates of thousands of deaths have been made after the Government confirmed 29 people in the UK have already died after contracting swine flu.
Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, said figures being used by the NHS to plan its services show that a 30% infection rate among the population could possibly lead to 65,000 deaths.
However, estimates vary depending on the numbers who end up infected.
Sir Liam said a National Pandemic Flu Service for England should be up and running towards the end of next week. The telephone and internet-based service will enable people to get a diagnosis and obtain a unique reference number which gives them access to Tamiflu.
A "flu friend" can then use the number to obtain the antiviral from a depot around the country and take it to the patient.
Twenty six people in England and three in Scotland have now died after contracting the virus. NHS South East Coast said it was investigating a case but could not confirm whether it was that of an apparently healthy six-year-old boy, who according to some reports died on Wednesday after contracting the virus.
The Evening Standard reported that a 39-year-old woman who died at Whipps Cross Hospital in London had given birth shortly before dying. She died on Monday and her baby, who was born prematurely, is in intensive care, the newspaper said.
The woman, thought to be from Bangladesh, had five other children, it added.
Some schools could remain closed in September if swine flu escalates over the summer, according to official guidance.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said while it is expected schools and nurseries would open as usual at the start of the academic year, they "cannot be certain what the situation will be" in the autumn.