Scientists have questioned whether the UK is likely to see 50,000 new infections a day by next month as projected by the Government’s chief scientific adviser.
Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said he believed the epidemic was doubling every seven days, which would lead to 200 deaths a day by mid-November.
The chief scientific adviser stressed that there were a lot of unknowns behind those projections.
He said: ‘If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days... if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.’
Sir Patrick explained that the UK’s rise in cases was closely following the trends in France and Spain and pointed to a graph to illustrate this.
However, if the UK were to continue to follow the trends in these two countries, then cases would be at 10,000 a day by next month.
Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said he believed the epidemic was doubling every seven days, which would lead to 200 deaths a day by mid-November. But figures throw into doubt some of his calculations
And if they were to jump to 50,000 a day by next month then they would be off the scale compared with France and Spain, rather than following them.
Another point of contention concerns the virus’s growth rate, the rate at which cases are increasing.
The UK’s current growth rate is somewhere between 2 and 7 per cent, according to Government figures last Friday.
But if the virus cases were doubling every day, the growth rate would be just over 10 per cent. It could be that officials expect the growth rate to increase – as it has been over the past few weeks – but this was not explained at yesterday’s briefing.
Scientists also pointed out that restrictions imposed in recent weeks, including the ‘rule of six’ and local lockdowns, would bring down the infection rate. Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘What they presented is the very worst possible case, given the state of the epidemic at the moment.
‘I think it is pretty implausible we will be seeing 50,000 cases a day by the middle of October. It’s important to bear in mind that they were not making a prediction, they were presenting an illustration of what would happen if cases continued to double, which they almost certainly will not.’
He said the growth of an outbreak tends to decline as it moves towards the peak, adding: ‘It would not surprise me if we end up following the trajectory of France and Spain over the next few weeks – it’s entirely plausible we would be seeing 10,000 cases a day by the middle of October.’
Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said the 50,000-a-day figure was a ‘worst case scenario’.
He added: ‘We are very unlikely to see cases at that level because interventions will be rolled out that restrict the spread of the virus, such as regional lockdowns.’
Professor Whitty (right, with Vallance on the left) appealed to the public’s selflessness in adhering to the rules and not just assuming they could ‘take their own risks’
Nigel Marriott, an independent statistician, claimed that although the cases were doubling in parts of the North they were actually falling in some regions in the South.
He added: ‘This regional disparity makes the national picture hard to interpret and it suggests that the goal should be to halt the northern wave as fast as possible before it has a chance to spread to the South.’
Meanwhile, the UK’s Covid-19 alert level was raised from three to four last night as Government advisers warned that virus cases are probably rising ‘exponentially’.
The decision was taken by the nation’s four chief medical officers, who urged the public to follow basic hygiene and social distancing practices to avoid ‘significant excess deaths’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives.’ It followed a rare televised address by Sir Patrick and Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.
Professor Whitty appealed to the public’s selflessness in adhering to the rules and not just assuming they could ‘take their own risks’.
He said: ‘The problem with a pandemic or an infection such as this is that if I as an individual increase my risk, I increase the risk to everyone around me and everyone who’s a contact of theirs.
‘Sooner or later the chain will lead to people who are vulnerable or elderly or have a long-term problem with Covid.’ Despite the gloomy tone of the briefing, Sir Patrick said there was a chance a vaccine could be available by the end of the year.
Boris Johnson hits reverse: PM will order pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm, tell workers 'stay HOME if you can' and demand police crack down hard on rule breakers in TV speech TODAY
By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail and Jack Wright for MailOnline
Boris Johnson will unveil a major crackdown on normal life today in a bid to halt a second wave of coronavirus.
He will drop his 'back to work' drive, announce restrictions on socialising and impose a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants from Thursday.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Pubs and other venues