UK mulls national lockdown as top scientists warn of ‘50,000 cases per day’


Commuters walk across the London Bridge during the morning rush hour on September 21, 2020.
London could soon see local curbs being imposed to arrest the soaring coronavirus infection rate. (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)
Commuters walk across the London Bridge during the morning rush hour on September 21, 2020. London could soon see local curbs being imposed to arrest the soaring coronavirus infection rate. (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

By S Neeraj Krishna



THE UK is deliberating on a second national lockdown amid warnings that there could be up to 50,000 Covid-19 cases per day by mid-October if infections continue to surge at the current rate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who will make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday (22) — confirmed last week the country was “seeing a second wave coming in”, and that it was “inevitable”.

Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said in an official briefing on Monday that “the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days”.



“If that continues unabated… by mid-October you would end up with something like 50,000 cases per day,” he said, adding that this would lead to more than 200 deaths per day.

“If this continued along the path… the number of deaths directly from Covid… will continue to rise, potentially on an exponential curve, that means doubling and doubling and doubling again and you can quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers.”

 



Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Chris Whitty (L) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance arrive at Downing Street on September 21, 2020 in London. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

 

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty noted that the infection “trend in the UK” was “heading in the wrong direction”, and the country was at “a critical point in the pandemic”.

“We have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner, although only relatively recently,” he said in the joint televised address with Vallance.



“If this continued, the number of deaths directly from Covid will continue to rise, potentially on an exponential curve, that means doubling and doubling and doubling again. And you can quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers because of that exponential process.”

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the “nation faces a tipping point”, warning of “heavier measures”.

“The choice is either that everybody follows the rules… or we will have to take more measures,” he told Sky News.

Asked by the BBC if a second national lockdown was being considered, Hancock said: “I don’t rule it out, I don’t want to see it.”

He, however, said restrictions would be different from last time, adding that the government aimed at cracking down on “people socialising”, rather than schools and workplaces.

Hancock also did not rule out the possibility of local restrictions in London, which was “catching up” with Covid hotspots.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said on Saturday (19) he was “extremely concerned” about the “accelerating speed at which Covid-19” was spreading in the capital

“It is increasingly likely that, in London, additional measures will soon be required to slow the spread of the virus,” he added.

“We will be considering some of the measures which have already been imposed in other parts of the UK.

“I am of the firm view that we should not wait… for this virus to again spiral out of control before taking action.”

On Sunday, Khan’s office noted that the situation was “clearly worsening”, and the mayor would “recommend” London-specific measures to ministers, after discussing the issue with council leaders.

“The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March,” said Khan’s spokesperson.

“It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late.”

A mayoral source told the Press Association that London was “now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East”.

“We can’t afford more delay,” the source said.

“Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”