London: Boris Johnson will convene crisis talks on tackling the resurgent coronavirus, after his top scientific adviser warned the U.K. is on course for 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October without urgent action.
The prime minister will chair a meeting of the government’s so-called Cobra emergency committee Tuesday morning, which the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also attend. He’ll then make a statement to the House of Commons to lay out the next steps in his government’s pandemic response — expected to include tougher rules on social distancing.
Ministers are trying to strike a balance between controlling the pandemic and avoiding a full lockdown that would snuff out the recovery after the economy plunged into its deepest recession for more than 100 years. Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned Monday the current infection rate, at which the number of cases is doubling every week, could lead to more than 200 deaths a day in mid-November if no new measures are put in place.
“Cases are increasing, hospitalizations are following,” Vallance said in a broadcast statement. “Deaths unfortunately will follow that, and there’s the potential for this to move very fast.”
Speaking earlier on ITV, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government’s plans haven’t been finalized, though he reiterated the government is determined to keep schools open and the economy running as much as possible.
Testing data show social activities — rather than the reopening of schools and offices — are the main reason for the recent surge, Hancock said, indicating that they will be the target of the government’s new rules. Pressed on whether pubs will have to close, Hancock said: “It’s not a no, and it’s not a yes.”
The latest government statistics, released on Sunday, showed a further 3,899 daily Covid cases and 18 deaths in the U.K.
The figures revealed by Vallance showed that without action, the U.K. is on course for as many as 49,000 cases per day by Oct. 13, with cases doubling “roughly” every seven days. That would put the country on track for about 200 deaths a day by the middle of November if steps aren’t taken to tackle the outbreak and the disease continues to spread at current rates, he said — though he emphasized this is a modeling projection rather than a prediction.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, sitting alongside Vallance, said the U.K. must take Covid-19 “very seriously” for the next six months as the country enters the more dangerous autumn and winter months. He said there is no evidence the virus is milder now than it was in the spring.
“If we do too little, this virus will go out of control and you will get significant numbers of increased direct and indirect deaths,” Whitty said. “But if we go too far the other way, then we can cause damage to the economy which can feed through to unemployment, to poverty, to deprivation — all of which have long-term health effects.”- Bloomberg’