Britain is "tantalisingly close" to fending off the H1N1 influenza pandemic, medical officials said on Thursday, as figures show infections continue on a downward trend.
But fearing a likely second wave, authorities have drawn up emergency plans to double the number of intensive care beds and make sweeping changes to mental health rules if Britain suffers a new surge of swine flu.
"I think we are tantalisingly close to be able to win the battle against this pandemic virus," England's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson told a weekly news briefing.
"Tantalising doesn't always mean you can get there, but it means we are still fighting and we are not staring into the jaws of defeat, yet," he said, reflecting the belief there will be a second wave of infections, either this winter or next year.
England, which has a separate health authority from other parts of Britain, had an estimated 3,000 new cases in the last week, down from 4,500 the week before, Donaldson said. There was a 24 percent decrease in influenza-like illness.
Five people in England died of the flu, bringing the total British H1N1 death toll to 75.
Despite the virus's retreat, health authorities have been requested to make sure they can double the intensive care facilities they could make available in an emergency.
As this would remove ventilators from operating theatres, this would mean routine operations would have to be cancelled.
And, fearing a massive reduction in medical staff if there is a severe new outbreak, British authorities are considering suspending a law which requires two doctors to "section" mentally ill patients; forcing them into mental health care.
Drugs companies are rushing to find vaccines to combat the flu strain that first emerged in Mexico and the United States and then moved around the world. The WHO declared it a global pandemic in June.
Companies making H1N1 flu vaccines include AstraZeneca's MedImmune, CSL, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis. Other flu vaccine makers include Baxter and Solvay.