The government has warned that a sudden spike in coronavirus cases could see tougher lockdown restrictions being introduced, increasing concerns among businesses about the speed of recovery from the pandemic
The warning came after 2,988 new cases were announced on Sunday, the highest increase since May 22. A further 2,948 cases were recorded on Monday.
The seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 in the UK has risen above 20 cases per 100,000 people, above the government threshold which triggers quarantine from other countries.
Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer said people had ‘relaxed too much’ after lockdown restrictions were loosened over the summer, and reported the recent surge in infections was a ‘great concern’.
The Welsh government has already announced that Caerphilly in south Wales is set to be placed under local lockdown, while restrictions on household visits across western parts of Scotland have been extended for a further week and expanded to include East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.
Van Tam said the virus is not being confined to certain areas, saying a ‘general creeping geographic trend across the UK’ is being observed.
‘If we are not careful we are going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months,’ he said.
Health minister Matt Hancock pointed to an increase in infections among ‘affluent younger people’, saying he was concerned by the imminent arrival of a million students at universities.
In an interview with Radio I’s newsbeat programme, Hancock warned those in the 17-29 age group: ‘Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on. And you can pass it on before you’ve had any symptoms at all.’
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said that local lockdowns and the planned withdrawal of various government support schemes in the autumn could see businesses seeking more financial help, and warned of the risk of rising debt.
Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: ‘Government loan schemes have been a lifeline for many businesses during the pandemic. So many firms have taken on debt in order to survive.
‘With many businesses still facing reduced demand, depleted cash reserves, and continued uncertainty, bold solutions will be needed to prevent thousands of firms across the UK from falling into a spiral of unsustainable debt.
‘If not addressed, large debt burdens could stifle the recovery, threatening jobs and constraining business activity and investment.
‘Others who have weathered the immediate storm may yet need access to finance for working capital to help their businesses recover and grow. Ministers should consider whether some loan schemes should be extended beyond the autumn to help.’