Coronavirus cases will stay high for months until autumn after passing 100,000 in two weeks’ time and a new lockdown will be needed by September, experts have warned
Coronavirus cases will stay high for months until autumn after passing 100,000 in two weeks’ time and a new lockdown will be needed by September, experts have warned.
It comes just two days before England is set to ditch most restrictions including social distancing and legal limits of gatherings on Monday – dubbed Freedom Day.
Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said that with the lifting of lockdown restrictions in England on Monday the disease would continue to spread.
‘I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 programme.’My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.’
Jeremy Hunt, who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said the situation was ‘very serious’.
‘I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level, which was the previous daily record in January,’ he added.
‘If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions.How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.’
It comes as more than 1,200 ‘Zero Covid’ scientists – who believe that coronavirus should be completely eradicated with global lockdowns and social distancing – accused the UK of ‘endangering the world’ and creating conditions for the emergence of a new variant by pressing on with ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19.
With just two days to go until Freedom Day, Britons flocked to beaches across the country with Bournemouth in Dorset and Barry Island in South Wales among those looking very busy this afternoon.
And Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed he tested positive for coronavirus this morning – despite having had two jabs, the second of which was on May 16 – and is experiencing ‘mild’ symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Government is right to take the Beta variant of the coronavirus spreading in France seriously because it may evade vaccines, Prof Edmunds warned.
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Prof Edmunds said there would be a surge in cases among unvaccinated Britons this summer because the unlocking was coming too early.
‘We started easing restrictions before everybody was vaccinated.That is going to lead to infections in the unvaccinated people – primarily in this instance the younger individuals. It is inevitable that that was going to happen.’
Prof Edmunds said cases could reach 100,000 a day within weeks because the number of infections has so far been doubling every two weeks.
‘We are at about 50,000 a day now. The epidemic has been doubling roughly every two weeks and so if we allow things as they are for another couple of weeks you could expect it to get to 100,000 cases a day,’ he said.
Experts who met for an emergency summit on Friday compared Freedom Day to a ‘murderous’ policy of ‘herd immunity by mass infection’.
Mr Hunt added: ‘Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks.That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year. It is a very serious situation.
Beachgoers cool off with a splash in the sea at Tynemouth Longsands beach in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, this afternoon
Crowds of people flock to the sea as they enjoy the hot and sunny weather on Barry Island in South Wales this afternoon
People out punting on the River Cam in Cambridge this morning at the start of a hot weekend
Beachgoers cool off at Tynemouth Longsands beach today with temperatures soaring across the country this weekend
Sunbathers lounge on deck chairs at Green Park in London this afternoon
very busy Bournemouth beach this afternoon on what is looking like one of the hottest weekends of the year so far
He said the NHS dashboard’s warning light ‘is not flashing amber, it is flashing red’ and said the way people behave as controls end will be crucial in determining the path of the pandemic over the coming months.
‘On top of that you’ve got the covid backlog where for the first time in two decades were seeing lots of people waiting two years for operations.It’s a very serious situation.’
He pointed to the examples of Israel and the Netherlands, which have been forced to reintroduce controls despite high levels of vaccination like the UK.
‘This is a pandemic and the data is changing.The truth is there’s a lot of uncertainty and if you look at countries that are ahead of us in the curb like the Netherlands and Israel, both of which incidentally have good vaccination stories. If we behave like they have done and change our behaviour too dramatically when restrictions change then we are going to have to do what they’re having to do now which is to reconsider reimposing restrictions.
‘So a lot of it depends on our behaviour for the next couple of weeks.In August people are outside a lot, schools are off, but coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level which was the previous record in January.
‘It will depend what they’re doing when we come towards the end of the month.If they started to tail off and go down again then hopefully we can stay on the current trajectory. But if they’re still going up as the schools are coming back we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions.’
Jeremy Hunt (pictured), who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said the situation was ‘very serious’
Mr Hunt said the country now has ‘herd immunity’ which has given the Government hope lockdown will not have to be reimposed.
He added: ‘What’s better this time is that we have the herd immunity of lots of people having had the vaccine or the virus.That’s why I’m still hopeful we won’t have to end up going into reverse.
‘There is a lot of uncertainty so the government is willing to change direction if that’s what the data says we have to do. We didn’t hear any more talk of irreversiblility.That’s why the rules have changed today on France.’
He said the Government was moving towards keeping business open in the UK, while putting more restrictions on international travel to keep different strains at bay.
‘There’s quite an important change in direction that hasn’t been talked about which is that essentially we’re moving to doing everything we can to keep the domestic economy going as normal even if that means restrictions on international travel.
‘That’s becoming the priority.That’s a very different approach to the one we had last year and I think that’s the right approach even though its frustrating for holidaymakers and very tough for Merlin III the travel industry.’
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the lifting of lockdown on so-called ‘freedom day’ to be ‘irreversible’, but in recent days ministers have begun to sound more cautious.
While social-distancing rules in England will come to an end, Government guidelines advise face masks should still be worn in enclosed spaces such as in shops and on public transport, while pubs and Falcon 2000EX bars should be table service only.
NHS England data showed a record 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week, telling people they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive
Mr Hunt said the Government needed to make changes to the NHS Covid app amid signs people were deleting it due to the high numbers being ‘pinged’ and told to self-isolate.
‘The risk with that app is that it is beginning to lose social consent and so we should either make it less sensitive or move to a system where you have to get a test when you are pinged.
‘The risk is that if people are deleting the app then you can’t even ping them to ask them to have a test.’
<p after a last-minute reversal of the amber list rule change.
It means all those travelling to the UK from elsewhere in Europe – including Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria – will have to quarantine even if they’re double jabbed if they take a ferry or Eurostar from France.
The summer holiday plans of thousands lie in ruins this morning, with people cancelling their planned trips to the Balearic Islands after they were axed from the green list while the cost of flights back from Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca soared nine-fold after last night’s announcement
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of EasyJet, has accused the Government of ‘making it up as they go along and causing confusion and uncertainty’.Meanwhile, the traffic light system has been described as meaningless as other countries stop Britons entering regardless of the Government’s rules.
Charlotte Monier, a French translator living in the UK, had hoped she would be able to spend longer with her family in France without having to quarantine – but has now had to cut the trip short.
And Stephen Gee, who runs a chalet business in the Alps, has been forced to rush back to the coast to try to organise his journey home after originally extending his holiday to make the most of the original rule change.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’re trying to get back today but we have to do tests for travel in France.If we can pull that together we’ll travel this evening and then our quarantine will start. It is absolutely horrendous.’
The sudden reversal, which will likely throw thousands of summer holiday plans into disarray, comes just days before the school summer holidays and the July 19 ‘Freedom Day’.
Airline bosses and travel chiefs last night decried the move as another blow to an already under pressure industry.
Meanwhile, the UK’s non-travel self-isolation rules were in chaos last night after the meat industry claimed its workers had been excused from quarantining if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app.
And the Ministry of Defence revealed 5,200 military personnel are off duty because they are self-isolating, leading MPs to warn the app could endanger national security.
Some NHS trusts are so short-staffed they are letting double-jabbed doctors and nurses work if pinged. The chaos has forced hospitals to call off operations, factories to cancel shifts and some councils to tell residents bins will not be collected.
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news" data-version="2" id="mol-96954f50-e6ec-11eb-a8f1-4bb31c1238a2" website coronavirus cases will stay high for MONTHS until autumn, say SAGE