UK Ministers have warned lockdown may need to remain in place for months until the number of new cases falls below 1,000 per day after Professor Chris Whitty raised the spectre of a second peak far worse than the first.
Mirror Online reports: “The total number of new coronavirus deaths in all settings was 674 on Thursday, down from 765 the previous day, but there was a leap in the number of new cases to 6,032 from 4,076 on the day before.
“Although this was in part down to increased testing, ministers say they want daily infections down to the hundreds before any easing of the lockdown, The Daily Telegraph reported. Britain has not been down in the hundreds since March 23.
“In his first Downing Street briefing since leaving intensive care, Boris Johnson said he would outline a ‘menu of options’ next week for how the UK could roll off the peak which he said we had past.
“Germany’s surging infection rate as a result of easing its measures – when its daily rate was far lower than ours at 2,000 – is understood to have sparked deep concern among ministers.
“It comes as Prof Whitty warned that ‘COVID-19 is a very long way from finished and eradication is technically impossible for this disease’ which could batter us again in the colder months.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer told an online lecture: “It’s not just in Game Of Thrones that winter is always coming … the winter is always worse than summer, spring and autumn for health services.”
Prof Whitty said: “We need to make sure that R does not go back above one. Because if not we will go back to a second wave. It is entirely plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated.”
The total number of new coronavirus deaths in all settings was 674 on Thursday, down from 765 the previous day, but there was a leap in the number of new cases to 6,032 from 4,076 on the day before, the report said.
Mr Johnson said efforts to bolster the NHS had avoided a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ of 500,000 deaths if we hadn’t locked down.
“Mr Johnson’s three-pronged plan to be outlined next week will ‘explain how we can get our economy moving, our children back to school and into childcare, and thirdly how we can travel to work and make life in the workplace safer’,” the report added.
“Mr Johnson also said he was ‘not going to pretend’ the government had not made any mistakes in the handling of the crisis, pointing to PPE supplies. He admitted they were learning lessons every day.
But he insisted: “At no stage has our NHS been overwhelmed, no patient went without a ventilator, no patient was deprived of intensive care, we have five of the seven projected Nightingale wards.
“It is thanks to that massive collective effort to shield the NHS that we avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic where the reasonable worst-case scenario was 500,000 deaths.
“I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease.
“We are past the peak and on the downward slope… We have come through the peak.
“Or rather we have come under what could have been a vast peak.
“As though we have been going through some huge Alpine tunnel.
“And we can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us.”
Mr Johnson said he did not want to “protract” the lockdown any further and the government is working on ‘ingenious’ solutions to get the economy running.
“Until this day comes (when an inoculation is ready), and we cannot say exactly when this will be, we are going to have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity,’ said the PM.
“I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, our children back to school and into childcare, and thirdly how we can travel to work and make life in the workplace safer.
“In short, how we can continue to suppress the disease and at the same time restart the economy.”
Mr Johnson said: “What you are going to get next week is really a road map, a menu of options – the dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying and we are getting in a lot more data every day now and in the course of the next few days.”
In a reference to his own struggle against the disease – which he previously admitted could have gone “either way”.
Mr Johnson said the government’s main aim was always to “save lives”.
“I was very, very lucky,’ he said. ‘I had wonderful carers, wonderful treatment, and, let’s be frank, tragically, thousands of people have been less fortunate than I was.
“And, that’s why the objective of this Government is to save lives across the country.
“Families every day are continuing to lose loved ones before their time, we grieve for them and with them, but as we grieve, we are strengthened in our resolve to defeat this virus to get this whole country back to health, back on its feet.
“‘That’s, of course, not saying that we’re suddenly going to move into a new phase – we need to be absolutely sure that the five tests that were set out some weeks ago are going to be met, and in particular the need to avoid that second or even third spike in the disease is clear to me both in terms of health and the well-being of the economy as well.”
One No10 source said of Mr Johnson’s message: “It will very much be in the area of how we satisfy our five tests for coming out of lockdown, chief among which is making sure we don’t risk another exponential rise in infections.
“It’s still too early to be setting out any details of what any easing of the lockdown might look like.”
Meanwhile, data published this week showed that Britain has one of the world’s worst coronavirus death rates, better only than Spain and Belgium per capita.
Revised UK figures including deaths outside hospitals showed that there have been nine days when the death toll topped 1,000 – ranging from April 7 to as recently as April 24.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance updated ministers on the response to coronavirus so far and the progress made in slowing the spread of the disease.
The Prime Minister’s gave another signal that there is little chance of a loosening before June.