Up to 90,000 people a day are being infected with COVID-19 in England, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
Sir Patrick Vallance, speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday, presented data (pictured, below) from the scientific pandemic influenza modelling group (SPI-M) which suggests there were between 53,000 and 90,000 new cases a day up to Tuesday (20 October).
It comes six days after Sir Patrick presented similar data showing up to 74,000 a day were being infected up to 13 October.
If there were 90,000 cases on Tuesday, that would mean infections are close to the level seen during the first wave of the pandemic. The government has previously said more than 100,000 people a day were getting COVID-19 at the peak in April.
It would also mean infections are more than four times higher than the daily numbers released by the government – though these are UK-wide as opposed to just England. On Tuesday, the government said there had been 21,330 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
Watch: Will Greater Manchester’s intensive care units be overwhelmed?
Sir Patrick went on to say restrictions on people’s freedom will be needed for some time.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he told the briefing. “They are increasing and they are not going to decrease quickly.
“I think it is likely that some measures of restriction are going to need to be in place for a while to try and get those numbers down.”
He added: “At the moment, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction but there are some signs in some places of a potential flattening off of that.”
Speaking at the same briefing, Boris Johnson defended his approach to tackling the pandemic, warning an “extreme laissez faire” response, giving people greater freedom, would result in “many thousands more deaths”.
But he said another national lockdown was “not the right course” for the UK, “not when the psychological cost of lockdown is known to us, the economic cost, and not when it has been suggested that we might have to perform the same sort of brutal lockdowns again and again in the months ahead”.
The prime minister introduced a three-tier local lockdown system on Wednesday last week.
Watch: How will England’s three-tier lockdown system work?