England's chief medical officer has warned the number of people in hospital with coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks.
Professor Chris Whitty said the UK is “not out of the woods yet”, just hours after prime minister Boris Johnson declared it was “highly probable” the worst of the pandemic is over.
The latest figures showed 48,553 more cases, the highest since January 15th, while the 63 deaths were the biggest daily reported increase since March 26th.
Prof Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said: “I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast.”
He warned that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is currently doubling about every three weeks and could reach “quite scary numbers” if the trend continues.
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Science Museum, Prof Whitty said: “We are not by any means out of the woods yet on this, we are in much better shape due to the vaccine programme, and drugs and a variety of other things.
“But this has got a long way to run in the UK, and it’s got even further to run globally.”
'Difficult days and weeks ahead'
His comments came after Mr Johnson urged people not to “throw caution to the winds” as England’s restrictions ease on Monday and acknowledged there would be more hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 to come during “difficult days and weeks ahead”.
Prof Whitty said the key on July 19th was “to take things incredibly slowly”, adding that he fully expected most people to continue to take precautions.
“If you look over what people have done, and in fact if you look at what people intend to do now, people have been incredibly good at saying, ‘I may be a relatively low risk, but people around me are at high risk, and I’m going to modify my behaviours’,” he said.
The surge in infections has had a knock-on effect in the number of people self-isolating after coming into contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.
Ministers are concerned about the scale of the problem and are examining whether the NHS Covid-19 app could be made less sensitive to reduce the numbers being “pinged”.
Some 530,126 alerts, 520,194 in England and 9,932 in Wales, were sent in the seven days to July 7th, the highest seven-day total since data was first published in January.
The Daily Telegraph reported some neighbours of coronavirus cases have been told to self-isolate because the app can trace people through walls.
“We are hearing of anecdotal cases and we do know that it is possible for the signal to travel through walls, although it is weakened,” a source close to the Test and Trace team told the newspaper.
Levels of self-isolation are already having an impact on carmakers. Nissan has already had to adjust production in certain areas of its Sunderland plant due to the number of staff being required to self-isolate.
And Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos told the Telegraph: “Cases have gone through the roof and it is causing havoc.”