Government plans to kill millions of mosquitoes to fight the Zika virus could cost billions of pounds, a report has warned.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said the Government’s $1.5bn plan to eradicate mosquitoes was a “massive undertaking” but was not “the end of the story”.
It also said the “long term health and economic consequences” of the programme are uncertain and would depend on the response to the disease.
The report was published by the NICE think tank as part of its latest global assessment of the impact of the Zika outbreak.
Its report, published last week, said the mosquito-borne virus could cause an estimated 20 million deaths and a “severe economic impact of about €20bn” by 2021.
It estimated there would be an additional 1.8 million cases of Zika, which can cause birth defects, among people aged 15 to 39.
The NICE’s report also highlighted the economic cost of fighting the disease, which has killed more than 3.2 million people and caused more than $6.9bn in economic damage.
“The long-term health and physical and social costs associated with the Zika pandemic will be enormous,” it said.
“Although the public health response has been highly effective, it has not been enough to reduce the overall burden of disease.”
Mr Cameron said last week that the Government was not planning to put people in jail to stop the spread of the virus.
But he said he had been forced to make tough decisions on how to address the virus in response to an increase in cases.
“If you look at the number of cases, the impact is really going to be very substantial,” he said.
“And so I have had to take a decision about whether to put more people in prison, whether to give people more help in the way of health advice and so on.”
It’s very difficult, but I have to take that decision.
“He added: “The only way to make sure the virus is eradicated is to take the full cost of that eradication and make sure it is a very substantial cost.
“That means not only jail, but a significant increase in the costs of treating people and the costs in terms of our ability to control the spread.”
The Government is also working with partner agencies to build a network of testing centres, as well as new tools and surveillance systems.
The health secretary, Sian Lloyd, has said the virus was now in control of the countries most important urban areas.
The government has said it is also investing in Zika prevention and treatment to help prevent the spread.