UK experts issue stark warning on exponential virus cases

UK experts issue stark warning on exponential virus cases

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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LONDON, England (AP) — Britain's top medical advisers warned the public yesterday to make further sacrifices to control the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying new coronavirus infections could increase tenfold to almost 50,000 a day next month if nothing is done now to stem the tide.

In a briefing televised live to the nation, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said after a slow rise in new infections over the summer, the number of new COVID-19 cases is now doubling every seven days.

In other countries, such an increase in infections soon led to a rise in deaths, Whitty said.

“We have, in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner” after weeks of rising infections, he said.

The stark scenario lays the groundwork for the British Government to announce new coronavirus restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will update lawmakers on his plans today amid increasing expectations that he will announce a slate of short-term restrictions to act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease.

Whitty stressed that infection rates are rising among all age groups and said it is not acceptable for individuals to ignore health guidelines and engage in risky activity. He said everyone must do their part to slow the spread of the disease because infections among the young and healthy will inevitably spread to their friends and family members, and ultimately to the most vulnerable in society.

“This is not someone else's problem,” he said. “This is all of our problem.''

Britain already has Europe's highest death toll in the pandemic with over 41,800 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say due to limited testing and other factors, all such figures understate the true impact of the pandemic,

The British Government is hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19, which last week pushed new cases to levels not seen since early May. Almost 3,900 new infections were reported on Sunday, compared with a peak of 6,199 cases on April 5.

While death rates have remained relatively low so far, Whitty warned that deaths are likely to rise in coming weeks. The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week, compared with a peak of 942 on April 10.

These numbers include only deaths that are directly related to COVID-19. The real toll could be much higher if emergency services are overwhelmed by coronavirus cases and the National Health Service has to divert resources from treating other diseases, Whitty said.

But Whitty said this has to be balanced against the impact on the economy and society from measures to control the virus, because increased deprivation and mental illness will also lead to deaths.

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