Professor Chris Whitty has called the second wave of coronavirus in Britain a “six-month problem” – warning that cases could potentially rise to 50,000 per day if trends continue.
“What we’re seeing is a rate of increase across the majority of the country,” he said on Monday.
“As we go through in time, any [region in the UK] which was falling is beginning to rise.
“This is not someone else’s problem; this is all of our problem.
“We have, in a bad sense, turned a corner. The seasons are against us.
“We should see this as a six-month problem.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance delivered the message during a televised presentation on Monday morning (21 September) to address the second wave of coronavirus which has appeared across the UK in recent weeks.
Looking at other countries to “learn lessons”, Vallance stated: “We’ve seen increase in cases across Europe. It started with younger people in their twenties and spread gradually to older people as well.
“This has translated to an increase in hospitalisations.
“Sadly, but not unexpectedly, deaths are also increasing.”
The number of cases in Britain is now over 3,000 per day on average; the highest levels seen since May.
But Vallance said this could grow very quickly, and that every age group is now beginning to see an increase in cases.
“I’d like to remind you how quickly this can move,” he added.
“We think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days. If that continues unabated… by mid-October we would end up with something like 50,000 cases per day.
“The vast majority of the population remain susceptible and therefore you’d expect spread.”
Vallance reiterated that whilst this was not a prediction, it should serve as a warning as to what could potentially happen.
Currently, as many as 11 million people in the UK are living under tighter restrictions – which include curbs on socialising and visiting family and friends.
Certain businesses have also had their opening hours reduced, whereas the hospitality sector in Bolton – the town with the highest rate of cases in the country – has been asked to revert to takeaway-only.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously stated that he did not want a national lockdown, but admitted measures would likely have to go further than the recently-imposed Rule of Six.
More local restrictions have been introduced since, and from 28 September anyone who has either tested positive or been contacted by Test & Trace must self-isolate or risk a fine of up to £10,000.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called Monday’s briefing “very stark,” claiming the UK is now at a “tipping point“.
Whitty and Valance were familiar figures in the early part of the pandemic, having flanked the Prime Minister during his daily updates in spring.
Whilst they’ve largely appeared calm and collected, the subject matter of the briefings has meant the pair’s presence on the podium has since come to symbolise the imminent arrival of bad news.
And indeed, the message on Monday was a foreboding one: The UK could be set for a very challenging winter period unless the tide begins to turn soon.