London, 21 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Britain could face up to 50,000 new coronavirus infections daily by next month unless it takes tougher measures to curb the spread of the virus, the country’s chief scientist said on Monday.
“At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said in a speech ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected announcement of new measures.
If that doubling continued, Britain could have 50,000 cases per day – more than 10 times the current level – by mid-October and some 200 deaths per day by mid-November, Vallance said.
“We should see this as a six-month problem,” Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said alongside Vallance.
Whitty said the four main ways to reduce the infection rate were: reducing individual risk; self-isolation of infected people and their contacts; limiting social interactions; and investing in drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
Several areas of Wales joined other British cities and regions where local lockdowns are already in force, with growing speculation that London could soon follow suit.
Johnson, who is expected to address parliament on Tuesday, announced plans on Sunday to fine people in England who repeatedly breach social distancing rules up to 10,000 pounds (13,000 dollars) from September 28.
He is reportedly considering reintroducing a ban on people from different households meeting and restrictions on pub opening hours, possibly during a two-week school holiday next month.
Jonathan Ashworth, the main opposition Labour party’s health spokesman, said Vallance and Whitty had “presented a grim picture about the rise in coronavirus cases.”
“This rapid spike in infections was not inevitable, but a consequence of the government’s incompetence and failure to put in place an adequate testing system,” Ashworth said, echoing the views of many health experts.
“The government must do whatever it takes to prevent another lockdown, which would cause unimaginable damage to our economy and people’s wellbeing,” he said, adding that an “effective testing and tracing system” should be a priority.
Johnson is scheduled to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee early Tuesday to “discuss what next steps may be required in the coronavirus response,” Downing Street said.
He faces growing discontent among his own Conservative lawmakers over his handling of the crisis.
Responding to Vallance and Whitty’s remarks, influential right-wing Conservative Steve Baker said they had implied it was “legitimate to constrain freedom to prevent harm to others.”
“Such restraints on liberty deserve prior scrutiny and approval by parliament,” Baker tweeted.
Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers, told the BBC that Johnson’s government had “got into the habit of ruling by decree.”
Brady questioned whether government coronavirus measures had worked and called for more parliamentary scrutiny of them.
Britain has reported some 400,000 coronavirus infections since March. Its official death toll linked to Covid-19 is nearly 42,000, Europe’s highest total.