Wed | Oct 21, 2020

UK raises virus alert level, warning of high transmission

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2020 | 12:06 AM
Shoppers wear masks on Oxford Street in London yesterday. Britain’s top medical advisers have painted a grim picture of exponential growth in illness and death if nothing is done to control the second wave of coronavirus infections, laying the groundwork
Shoppers wear masks on Oxford Street in London yesterday. Britain’s top medical advisers have painted a grim picture of exponential growth in illness and death if nothing is done to control the second wave of coronavirus infections, laying the groundwork for the government to announce new restrictions later this week. (AP)

LONDON (AP):

British medical officers raised the nation’s COVID-19 alert level on Monday, saying the virus is in general circulation and the transmission is high. The move comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce further restrictions today designed to slow the spread of the virus.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, saying cases are rising “rapidly and probably exponentially,” raised the alert from three to four, the second-highest level, on the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Center.

The change came hours after other top British health experts warned the public they must make more sacrifices to control the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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. They said new infections could increase 10-fold to almost 50,000 a day next month if nothing is done now to stem the tide.

Whitty stressed that infection rates are rising among all age groups, and said it’s not acceptable for individuals to ignore health guidelines or 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 friends, family 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 all such figures understate the true impact of the pandemic, due to limited testing and other factors.

Almost 3,900 new infections were reported on Sunday, a level not seen since early May. Britain’s highest daily number of new infections peaked at 6,199 cases on April 5.

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