The United Kingdom could see 50,000 new Covid-19 cases every day by mid-October if no swift action is taken, top experts warned on Monday, as the Boris Johnson government considered imposing another national lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.
Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the number of cases is doubling every seven days. For the first time in recent months, they appeared on live television without a minister present to report the new data described as “critical”.
“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days…you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day”, Vallance said.
He projected more than 200 daily deaths by mid-November.
“The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days. That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon. The Johnson cabinet is reported to be divided on the issue of a fresh lockdown in view of another severe blow it would inflict on the economy.
After daily increases in cases in the hundreds in July and August, the figures have consistently been in the thousands in September. On Sunday, 3,899 new cases and 18 deaths were reported across the UK, as the experts reiterated basic precautions needed.
Setting out current situation in Spain and France, the experts said the UK is seeing similar increases, with new cases rising across all age groups, but particularly among the youth. The call for action is also prompted by the annual challenge of dealing with seasonal ailments in winter.
Parts of the UK are already under local lockdowns, with a range of heavy fines to be imposed from September 28 on those breaching self-isolation or lockdown rules. Parts of London are also due to face new restrictions.
The opposition Labour urged the government to avoid a second national lockdown. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This rapid spike in infections was not inevitable, but a consequence of the government’s incompetence and failure to put in place an adequate testing system”.
“Labour’s priority is that there must be a national effort to prevent another national lockdown. The government must do what it takes to prevent another lockdown, which would cause unimaginable damage to our economy and people’s wellbeing,” he added.