The UK could see 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October if trends continue and cases aren’t curbed, the UK’s top scientists have warned.
Speaking today on BBC News, chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance warned that increasing cases across the UK, combined with incoming colder weather, could see deaths rise quickly if not controlled.
In the press conference – the first of its kind to be held without a politician present – Whitty explained that the UK had passed a critical point in cases. “We have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner,” he said. With respiratory viruses found to spread more easily in the winter, Whitty warned that “the seasons are against us”.
The briefing also stressed that cases are rising across the UK. While there are some differences in certain regions, Whitty said that every part of country is at risk and that the situation is “not someone else's problem, it's all of ours”.
Cases are also rising across all age groups. A graph showed that the largest number of cases is among 20 to 29-year-olds in England, in line with claims that young people in the UK are responsible for the recent uptick in cases. However, Vallance emphasised that all age groups are currently experiencing a rise in cases.
New coronavirus cases by age in England since June, shown during today's press conference. Image: BBC.
This sharp rise in coronavirus cases comes after the government eased social distancing rules in an attempt to stave off economic downturn. Since July, ministers have encouraged people to socialise with its Eat Out to Help Out scheme, as well urging home workers to return to their offices. In August, Boris Johnson told the nation to have the “confidence” to return to work, while in the same month, Rishi Sunak was photographed promoting Eat Out to Help Out without wearing a mask, telling Brits to “do our bit” and return to cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Despite these measures, the UK economy is currently facing the worst recession in 300 years, according to the Bank of England.
The government’s track and trace system has also been criticised, as people across the country are unable to access tests. Earlier this month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock apologised for the testing shortages, citing an issue with “a couple of contracts”.
While Whitty and Vallance do not have the political power to introduce new lockdown rules, both acknowledged that the government has to “walk a very difficult balance” in order to stem the spread of the virus without harming the economy. “We have to break unnecessary links between households in the least damaging way,” Whitty advised.
According to reports, Boris Johnson will address the nation this week on potential lockdown measures to manage the growing number of cases and deaths.