By Rachael Grealish
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance have issued a blunt warning to the public to avoid COVID-19 cases rising to almost 50,000 per day by October.
The pair gave a rare joint briefing today, Monday September 21, in Downing Street where they also warned of people ‘taking their own risks’ and the need to ‘break links’ of socialising between different households.
Sir Patrick said they think the virus seems to be doubling every seven to ten day – if this was to continue as a doubling time approximately 50,000 cases could be added daily by mid October.
Along with this he said daily rise in cases is not just due to more testing.
In every age group the proportion of people testing positive is going up – and this is translating into an increase in hospitalisation.
If this infection rate was to continue we could see deaths go up to 200 per day by November – though not as high as during the peak, still a tragedy of direct COVID-19 deaths.
Professor Whitty went on to present a chart showing how hospital admissions for Covid are increasing and said: “This has only started in England.”
He also said that although less than eight percent of the population has contracted the virus does not mean the rest are immune or the virus has become weaker since the initial outbreak.
For those sceptical about the rate of seasonal flu deaths to COVID deaths, Whitty said season flu normally kills round 7,000 people a year, but the COVID virus is more virulent.
Ultimately, Prof Whitty said there are four steps we must take to tackle the virus now.
The professor addressed those who argue they should be allowed to decide the risk they take personally, he said: “But if you take a risk, you are also exposing others to risk.”
The four steps we need to take immediately are:
- First, as individuals, we can reduce our risk: hands, face, space.
- Second, we can isolate the virus. If people have symptoms, they must self-isolate. People who do this are helping to keep the virus out of circulation.
- Third, we must “break unnecessary links between households”. That means cutting contacts at work, and in social environments. But we cannot do this without significant downsides.
- Fourth, we can address the virus through science.
Whitty said if we do not change course, we will find ourselves in ‘a very difficult situation’.
Finding a balanced way to tackle the infection fast seemed to be one of the last warnings given by the pair.
Professor Whitty said: “So there is an indirect effect on deaths and on illness from this impact on the NHS if we allow the numbers to raise fast.
“On the other side we know that some of the things we have had to do will cause significant problems in the economy, social impacts, impacts on mental health and therefore all of 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 we can cause damage to the economy which can feed through to unemployment and poverty which have long term health effects.”
The pair seem to have provided a basis for the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to announce any further changes to restrictions – which he is expected to do at some point this week.