‘People are still getting infected today’: Medics warn the UK is still in a ‘dangerous phase’ – as charts show that London may already have reached coronavirus peak
- Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam said UK in a ‘dangerous phase’
- But he said data suggested ‘the curve is bending’ as case numbers in London fall
- However, he warned it is still ‘impossible’ to say if peak of outbreak has arrived
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Britain is still in a ‘dangerous phase’ of the coronavirus outbreak but data suggests the ‘curve is beginning to bend’, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam has said.
Mr Van Tam said the spread of the deadly disease is ‘not over’ and that ‘there are people being infected with coronavirus today’ as he insisted lockdown must remain in place.
But he struck a more hopeful tone as official government statistics showed the number of critical care patients in London had fallen while the total number of people in hospital beds with the disease in the capital has also dropped.
Those numbers are likely to prompt speculation that London has now reached the peak of the outbreak but Mr Van Tam said it was ‘impossible’ to say.
His comments at the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference came after it emerged that a total of 8,958 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK.
Jonathan Van Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said the latest coronavirus data suggested the ‘curve is beginning to bend’
Official government data shows the number of people in hospital beds with coronavirus in London has fallen
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus patients in critical care in the capital has also dropped
In other updates today:
- Downing Street was forced to warn police officers against ‘heavy-handed’ lockdown tactics after officers admitted to prowling through supermarket aisles in a bid to catch shoppers buying ‘non-essential’ items;
- Italy is preparing to extend its lockdown until May in order to avoid a second wave, sparking fears the UK – considered to be two weeks behind its European neighbour – will remain shut for even longer;
- Schools could reopen even if it’s for a short time before the summer holidays if it safe to do so – once the scientific advice says so, headteachers have said;
- Former Prime Minister Theresa May showed strict observance of the six feet rule as she waited to shop in Waitrose, pictured glancing at her phone as she waited outside the Berkshire store;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock was accused of setting a poor example on social distancing after it was claimed he was surrounded by staff during video calls with NHS chiefs;
Mr Van Tam said social distancing measures needed to remain in place because ‘we have to take the pain now to make the gain in a few weeks’ time’.
He said: ‘We are at a point where we are at a high level and the numbers are varying day by day but they are at this high level.
‘We are in a dangerous phase still and I need to reinforce that again to you that this is not over.’
He continued: ‘If you look at people diagnosed with Covid-19 who are now occupying hospital beds in Great Britain you can see that again over the period of the slide from March 20 through to April 9, there has been a steady increase.
‘But possibly you can see that the curve is bending. It is impossible to say that we have peaked.
‘London has gone down in the last day but the North East and Yorkshire have gone up.
‘However, I suggest to you that the curve is beginning to bend and that your hard work is beginning to pay off. But again I say, this is just not over. It needs to continue.’
Mr Van Tam said it would be ‘premature’ to say the UK is at the peak of the outbreak and ‘the push that we are making with social distancing just has to continue’.
He also insisted the UK ‘continues to be broadly in line with what is happening in other countries’ in terms of the spread of the outbreak but it is ‘still a dangerous situation’.
Mr Van Tam said calculating the point at which the UK arrives at the peak will be based on an assessment of numerous factors like new case numbers and the death rate.
But he suggested the ‘lag’ between people catching coronavirus and developing symptoms before then potentially being admitted to hospital meant it was a challenging calculation to make.
Asked to define what the ‘peak’ actually refers to, he said: ‘This whole concept is a bit like a hosepipe in your garden with a tap at one end and when you turn that tap off water still comes out of the hosepipe for a few seconds before it dies down and so it is with the indicators here.
The number of new cases of coronavirus appears to have plateaued at a ‘high level’, Mr Van Tam suggested
Meanwhile, public transport usage remains at low levels after the government urged people to stay at home
‘There are people being infected with coronavirus today. They will develop their symptoms at some point over the next two weeks.
‘Regrettably some of them will become ill enough to go into hospital, possibly about seven days after the onset of their symptoms and then not all of them will need intensive care thankfully, only a very small proportion.’
He continued: ‘Those who are unfortunately going to succumb to this disease don’t succumb instantly and again that takes time for those deaths to show from infections that occurred maybe two weeks before that.
‘So from that perspective we work all the time with these lag periods and the peak of each of those indices will be different and you do need to have a composite understanding of all of them to be thoroughly assured that this is now turning down for good in this wave.’