UK 'relaxed too much' over summer and now cases are soaring

People have ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and need to start taking coronavirus ‘very seriously’ again or the UK will face a ‘bumpy ride’, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned. 

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has expressed ‘great concern’ over the recent steep rise in the number of new cases recorded in the country.

It comes as other scientists warn the Government has ‘lost control of the virus’ and that cases are increasing ‘exponentially’. 

Another 2,948 positive tests were confirmed in the UK today, following the 2,988 reported yesterday – the largest daily figure since May.

Together this means the UK has recorded nearly 6,000 new cases in 48 hours. For comparison, in July, it took eight days to amass a similar number of cases. 

Prof Van-Tam said: ‘This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point.

‘We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that as much as people might like to say “oh well it’s gone away” – this hasn’t gone away.

‘And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.’

The warning came as Caerphilly in south Wales prepared to be placed under local lockdown and stricter measures were extended in parts of Scotland.

Cases are also rising fast in English cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool. 

The seven-day rate for the whole of the UK now stands at 21.3 per 100,000 people, just above the threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 at which the Government considers imposing quarantine restrictions, when applied to other countries.

Prof Van-Tam said the 17-21 age group have been most heavily impacted. They are usually less susceptible to the most serious forms of the disease but, he said, evidence from other European countries showed a similar pattern which ended with more older people being infected by the young.

He also said it appears the trend has switched from localised, controllable, outbreaks in cities like Leicester to much wider geographical areas. 

‘People have relaxed too much. Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us,’ Prof Van-Tam said.

He urged politicians and public health officials to think how to manage the crisis not in the short term but through ‘the next six months and how we get through this until the spring’.

The professor added that it was ‘clear’ that the level of compliance with restrictions ‘is very variable indeed’.

Meanwhile, Professor John Edmunds, who is part of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has warned that cases are ‘increasing exponentially’.

He said the UK has entered ‘a risky period’ with the average number of people an infected individual spreads the virus to, known as the reproduction number, potentially above the crucial figure of one.

‘I didn’t want us to relax measures so much that we couldn’t open the schools safely without it tipping the reproduction number significantly above one. And we are already above one and we’ve opened schools,’ he told ITV News.

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