Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, George Parker and Jim Pickard in London
Coronavirus cases could reach 50,000 a day by mid-October if more is not done to stop the spread of the virus in Britain, the government’s top medical and scientific advisers have said, as they warned of a tough six months ahead.
In a televised address from 10 Downing Street, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said that the country was facing a challenging winter.
“At the moment, the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” Sir Patrick said. “If – and this is quite a big if – that continues unabated and this grows, doubling every seven days, by mid-October you’d end up with something like 50,000 cases in a day.”
He added: “Fifty thousand cases a day will be expected to reach 200 deaths a day” by mid-November.
Sir Patrick said the challenge was to “make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days” to avoid entering a period of exponential growth.
“This requires, speed, this requires action,” he said. “Cases are increasing, hospitalisations are following, deaths unfortunately will follow that.”
Sir Patrick said that fewer than 8 per cent of the public – under 3m – had been infected and thus had antibodies.
“The vast majority of us are not protected in any way and are susceptible to the disease,” he said. “We also know that they fade over time and there are cases of people becoming re-infected so this is not an absolute protection and this will potentially decrease over time.”
The advisers’ slides suggested that, if there was a doubling of cases every seven days, the number of new daily cases could grow from 3,105 on September 15 to 49,000 by October 13.
The prime minister is expected to set out the next steps in the fight against the virus on Tuesday, while London mayor Sadiq Khan met local officials to discuss new restrictions on social activity in the capital.
Data released during the briefing showed how the biggest increase in new cases has been among 20 to 29-year-olds, followed by 30 to 39-year-olds.