Covid-19: UK risks 49,000 cases a day unless infection rates slow
21 Sep 2020
England's chief medical officer and the government's top scientific adviser warn that Covid cases are ‘doubling every seven days’ in Downing Street Coronavirus briefing
21 Sep 2020
England's chief medical officer Prof. Chris Whitty and the government's top scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warn the UK about rising Covid-19 cases in briefing stating ‘there’s no doubt we are in a situation where numbers are increasing’, as cases rose by over 8,000 over the weekend
Whitty and Vallance presented the Coronavirus briefing at Downing Street without any ministers present, they also took no questions from journalists.
The briefing was warranted after Covid cases in the UK have seen a steep rise - a similar increase to European neighbours Spain and France. Both countries were used as examples in the briefing as scientists predict we are following a similar pattern in terms of Covid cases – just six weeks behind.
Sir Patrick Vallance began the briefing by reminding the public how quickly the virus can move. He showed a graph, which he reiterated is not a prediction, explaining how fast the virus can move if the rate continues to double every seven days.
Valance said: ‘New cases were at roughly 3,000 per day, at the moment we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
‘If that continues unabated then by mid-October we would end up with approximately 49,000 cases a day.
‘This would be expected to lead to 200 plus deaths per day in November.’
Valance added: ‘In every age group we have seen an increase, could that increase be due to increased testing, the answer is no.
‘Roughly 70,000 people across the UK have Covid infection’, according to ONS data, ‘and about 6,000 people per day are getting the infection’.
He said: ‘There’s no doubt we are in a situation where numbers are increasing.
‘Under 8% of the population have been infected and the vast majority of us are not protected.’
Prof. Chris Whitty continued the briefing by stating the seasons are against us going into autumn and winter as the cold weather benefits respiratory viruses.
Whitty said: ‘This is not someone else’s problem this is all of our problem.
‘The UK should treat this as a six month problem that we have to deal with until science in due course rides to our rescue.
‘A lot of people have said, "maybe this is a milder virus than it was in April", I’m afraid although that would be great if that were true, we see no evidence that is the case.’
The effect of Covid cases rising
Whitty raised four ways in which the virus is going to have a significant effect on the populations health if we let it go out of control:
- direct Covid deaths – people who get the virus and die of the virus;
- if the NHS emergency services were overwhelmed by a huge spike;
- if the NHS is having to spend a large proportion of its effort in trying to treat Covid cases, it will lead to a reduction in support for other areas, such as early diagnosis for disease, this will have an indirect effect in death and illness; and
- Some of the things we have had to do is going to have significant effect on the economy, social impacts and mental health, and therefor society has to walk this very difficult balance.
‘If we do too little this virus will go out of control and we will get significant numbers of direct and indirect deaths. But if we go too far the other way then we can cause damage to the economy which can feed through to unemployment and poverty – all of which have long term health effects’, Whitty explained.
How to lower the Covid rate of infection
Whitty went on to explain four things the public can do to get on top of the pandemic:
- reduce our individual risk by wearing masks, washing hands and keeping our distance from other people when possible;
- isolating the virus, if people have symptoms, they must self-isolate and we must find their contact so they can isolate;
- break unnecessary links between households because that is the way the virus is transmitted; and
- we can invest in drugs, vaccines, diagnostics.
Vallance concluded: ‘There is good progress that has been made, many vaccines now have shown that they generate an immune response of a type that ought to be protective, and several vaccines are in very late stage clinical testing aiming to show that they are both protective and safe.
‘It is possible that some vaccine could be available by the end of the year in small amounts, much more likely that we’ll see them becoming available over the first half of next year.’
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