Ministers don’t need to panic yet about rising coronavirus cases in Britain, a leading expert insisted today after it was revealed that Boris Johnson fears a second wave could start within a fortnight.
A senior government source told the Mail the Prime Minister was ‘extremely concerned’ by outbreaks ‘bubbling up’, both at home and across Europe.
But Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, moved to reassure the nation today and said: ‘Give us a couple of weeks before we start panicking.’
He told MailOnline cases in the UK are drifting up but are not going up quickly and said it was possible ‘we could last out August’ without any new lockdown-like measures to control an outbreak.
Although the number of UK cases is relatively low, rises were recorded each day last week for the first time since the April peak. The seven-day average stands at almost 700 – 28 per cent up on three weeks ago.
Ministers have been warning of a potential second wave of the pandemic this winter but now fear it could come sooner. On a visit to Nottingham yesterday, Mr Johnson said Britons must not drop their guard.
He added: ‘The most important thing is for everybody in all communities to heed the advice, to follow the advice, not to be spreading it accidentally and get it right down and we’ll be able to ease the restrictions across the country.
‘But clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant.’
It comes as ministers today signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60million doses of a fourth experimental Covid-19 vaccine — even though it has yet to be trialled on humans.
In other developments today:
- Ministers warned there is ‘no silver bullet’ to save summer holidays abroad amid claims Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia could soon be added to the UK’s travel quarantine list;
- Care homes were ‘thrown to the wolves’ during the pandemic and the government’s actions were ‘at times negligent’, MPs claimed in a scathing report;
- The cost of Number 10’s furlough scheme passed £30billion this week — but will not stop unemployment rising above ten per cent, a leading thinktank warned.
A senior government source told the Mail the Prime Minister (pictured today jogging on a public footpath with his dog Dilyn near Chequers) was ‘extremely concerned’ by outbreaks ‘bubbling up’, both at home and across Europe
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘Give us a couple of weeks before we start panicking’
Mr Johnson is said to have been spooked by the resurgence of the virus in parts of the US and Europe following the easing of lockdown.
Cases in Spain doubled last week while the Belgian government warned of a second ‘complete lockdown’ unless outbreaks come under control.
The head of Germany’s public health agency yesterday said he was ‘very concerned’ by rising infection levels.
A Downing Street source said: ‘The PM is extremely concerned by what he’s seeing abroad and fears we could be seeing the same thing here in a fortnight.
‘People have got to realise we are still in the middle of a pandemic. He wants to go further on opening things up and getting people back to work, but he knows it’ll be his head on the block if things go wrong.’
As a report from MPs condemned the Government’s ‘reckless and appalling error’ in allowing 25,000 pensioners to be discharged to care homes without testing:
- Spain reacted angrily to the UK’s decision to warn tourists against travelling to the country, with prime minister Pedro Sanchez saying it was ‘unjust’;
- A deal is expected this morning for the purchase of millions of doses of another promising vaccine candidate;
- Ministers will meet tomorrow to decide whether to extend travel restrictions further, with Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia all said to be sources of concern;
- Oldham became the latest town to impose local restrictions to halt the spread of the virus;
- Another 119 Covid-related deaths were recorded in the UK;
- The quarantine period may be cut from 14 days to ten to ease the pressure on the economy and individuals.
Whitehall sources yesterday confirmed that Mr Johnson’s caution showed itself in the controversial decision to extend the travel ban on Spain to the country’s Balearic and Canary islands, where case numbers are lower.
The decision has sparked a diplomatic clash with Spain, with Mr Sanchez saying tourists in most regions would be safer than they are in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab are both said to have opposed the move to extend the travel ban to the Spanish islands, only to be overruled by the Prime Minister on Monday.
Boris Johnson pictured on a visit to Nottingham yesterday where he expressed fears over a second Covid-19 onslaught
The most up to date figures show the number of new cases is rocketing upwards in Spain. It announced 6,361 new cases over the weekend, up from 4,581 the previous weekend. France announced 2,551 new coronavirus cases on Monday
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has claimed that tourists are safer in his country than the UK. These are the worst coronavirus hotspots in each country and the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people
OLDHAM BECOMES LATEST TOWN TO FACE TIGHTER COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS
Oldham today became the latest place to introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions after a 240 per cent surge in cases in the past week.
Official NHS statistics show 119 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the Greater Manchester town in the week up to July 25.
This equates to a rate of 50.5 cases per 100,000 people — the third highest rate in the country, behind only Blackburn with Darwen and Leicester.
Council bosses have now urged all of the borough’s 235,000 residents to not let any visitors into their home for at least two weeks.
They are keen ‘to prevent a strict local lockdown being put in place’ like that seen in Leicester, which has yet to be freed from the draconian restrictions.
It puts Oldham at odds with the rest of England, after lockdown rules were relaxed earlier this month to let people to stay overnight with loved ones.
Everyone living in the Greater Manchester borough has also been asked to keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.
Current government advice for the rest of the nation recommends a one metre-plus rule — but people should keep two metres apart where possible.
A Whitehall source said: ‘The PM was determined to make sure we have a clear and consistent message on Spain, regardless of the situation in individual regions.
‘That’s fair enough, but you can see why Spain is upset because it treats the whole country as if it was as bad as the worst region.
‘If other countries did that to us they would be judging the whole country on the situation in Leicester.’
Figures released yesterday showed the rolling seven-day average of cases has continued to rise through the month, from 546 cases on July 5 to 697 on July 25 – an increase of 28 per cent.
Downing Street last night acknowledged that the PM was concerned about the situation abroad but played down the idea there was an imminent risk of an upsurge in the UK.
There are no immediate plans to reimpose restrictions on a nationwide basis.
A No 10 source said: ‘We have not seen a sharp uptick yet, but we are concerned. We don’t want to experience what some other countries are experiencing and it would be remiss of us if we were not looking at steps to prevent that.
‘That means we need to make sure we are not importing cases from abroad. But it also means people need to be vigilant here and maintain the social distancing.
The virus has not migrated for the summer and we have always said we will put the handbrake back on if we need to.’
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is said to be concerned about the risk of the virus being ‘seeded’ by holidaymakers returning from abroad, particularly as many people who get the virus display no symptoms.
He is also monitoring a dozen or so boroughs which have been placed on a ‘watchlist’ due to high or fast-rising infection rates, including Peterborough, Northampton, Luton, Leicester, Rochdale and Bradford.
Covid-19 cases rise AGAIN: Daily infections in the UK shoot up 30% in a week as Britain records 119 more deaths and figures show fatalities are rising in the South West and South East
By Vanessa Chalmers and Stephen Matthews for MailOnline
Covid-19 cases are still on the rise across the UK as the average daily number of infections has shot up to almost 700 — the highest toll for more than three weeks.
Government statistics today revealed 581 more Brits have tested positive for the life-threatening disease, 30 per cent higher than the 445 cases diagnosed last Tuesday.
It means the rolling average number of new infections, which takes into account figures recorded over the past seven days and has been on the up since July 8, is now 697 — up from 678 yesterday.
Despite cases already being on an upward trajectory after the relaxation of strict lockdown rules, the UK’s death curve has barely changed in the past eleven days amid fears of a resurgence.
Covid-19 deaths dropped to another low across England and Wales since the lockdown. Figures show nearly five times as many people are now dying from the flu and pneumonia than coronavirus
While Covid-19 deaths decreased or remained the same across all English regions, the South East and South West have seen an increase of 57 and 11 per cent, respectively, in one week
Britain today recorded another 119 deaths, slightly up on the 110 posted this time last week. It means 65 people are succumbing to the illness each day, on average, up from 64 yesterday.
Separate government figures today revealed Covid-19 deaths have dropped again to 17-week low in England and Wales — but are on the rise in the South East and South West.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report also showed deaths from all causes were below average for the fifth week in a row and that the overall number of confirmed or suspected victims is around 56,000.
Department of Health officials say the laboratory-confirmed death toll — which only includes victims who have tested positive for the disease — stands at 45,878.
Department of Health figures today showed almost 100,000 tests were carried out or posted the day before. The number includes antibody tests for frontline NHS and care workers.
Statistics show the number of fatalities from all causes has been below the five-year average for the past five weeks in a row
But bosses again refused to say how many people were tested, meaning the exact number of Brits who have been swabbed for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been a mystery for a month — since May 22.
Health chiefs reported 581 more cases of Covid-19. Government statistics show the official size of the UK’s outbreak now stands at 300,692 cases, less than 12 weeks after they tipped 200,000.
But the actual size of the outbreak, which began to spiral out of control in March, is estimated to be in the millions, based on antibody testing data.
It means the rolling average of daily cases stands at 697 — 10 per cent higher than the 635 average cases figure recorded last Tuesday.
The daily death data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.
The data does not always match updates provided by the home nations. Department of Health officials work off a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync.
And the count announced by NHS England every afternoon — which only takes into account deaths in hospitals — does not match up with the DH figures because they work off a different recording system.
For instance, some deaths announced by NHS England bosses will have already been counted by the Department of Health, which records fatalities ‘as soon as they are available’.
NHS England today recorded 12 deaths in hospitals across the country. No deaths were recorded in any setting in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
More than 1,000 infected Brits died each day during the darkest days of the crisis in mid-April but the number of victims had been dropping by around 20 to 30 per cent week-on-week since the start of May.
Sixty-five Britons are dying with Covid-19 each day, on average — exactly the same as the figure recorded last Tuesday.