Maps show how coronavirus is spreading amid warning death toll will be 'too much to bear' if measures not taken

Imogen Braddick
·4-min read
Department of Health
Department of Health

The medical director of NHS England has warned the coronavirus death toll will be "too great to bear" if restrictions are not imposed, as new maps reveal how the virus is spreading across the country.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Monday, Professor Stephen Powis said there was still no cure or vaccine for Covid-19.

He said there were now more patients in hospital with coronavirus than there were when the Government ordered the lockdown in March.

"Sadly, as the number of those infected increases, then so will the number of people who die,” he said.

"And that’s why the Government is looking at what other measures could be introduced in the areas where infection is rising the most.

"As the Secretary of State for Health has said, if we do not take measures to control the spread of the virus the death toll will be too great to bear."

He added: "It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the North West.

"In the over-65s – particularly the over-85s – we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking."

Weekly case rates per 100,000 people between September 30 and October 6
Weekly case rates per 100,000 people between September 30 and October 6

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, revealed how coronavirus is spreading across the country.

He said it was of "concern" that coronavirus was "heating up" in more of England than a week ago.

Prof Van-Tam made the comments as he explained a map showing the rate of change per 100,000 population by local authority between September 23 to 29 and September 30 to Oct 6.

The map shows the rate change in coronavirus cases per 100,000
The map shows the rate change in coronavirus cases per 100,000

He told the Downing Street press briefing: "It has changed in a matter of just a few days and that is clearly of concern to me."

He said the rise in coronavirus cases was now being seen “nationwide” and was not solely a problem for northern England.

Addressing a slide shown earlier in the briefing about rates increasing in the south of England, he said: “You have worried me now that I might have presented a bi-polar picture that Covid-19 is a problem in the North and not a problem in the South.

“On the contrary, the epidemic this time has clearly picked up pace in the north of England earlier than it did in the first wave and that almost certainly relates to the fact the disease levels in the North, and certainly in the North West, never dropped as far in the summer as they did in the South.

“But pretty much all areas of the UK are now seeing growths in the infection rate and that extending brown map that I showed you, which is sourced from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, absolutely makes that point.

“This is a nationwide phenomenon now that rates are changing upwards across the UK.”

Prof Van-Tam also warned that coronavirus was spreading from younger age groups into those aged of 60.

"There is the spread from those younger age groups into the 60 plus age group in the North West and the North East, and there are rates of change in the same places but also extending a little further south.

"And this is again of significant concern… because of course the elderly suffer a much worse course with Covid-19, they are admitted to hospital for longer periods, and they are more difficult to save."

But Prof Van-Tam sought to play down the impact of the return of schools on the resurgence of the virus.

He said: "If you salami slice the infection data very carefully across the school age bands, what you actually see is very low rates of increase in infection up to around the age of 16 and then picking up a bit in the 17-18-year-olds as we drift into that age bracket… of really quite intense transmission.

"The evidence that there is significant transmission in schools is not really borne out by the increased infection rates and indeed we already know that children are not drivers of infection and spread in the community in the same way we know they are for influenza, for example."

The press briefing held by Prof Van-Tam and Prof Powis comes ahead of an announcement from Boris Johnson at 3.30pm in the Commons.

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