Sir Patrick Valance and Professor Chris Whitty have led the first Coronavirus statement from Downing Street in weeks, warning of the potential for the virus to “move very fast”.
Showing a graph during the briefing, they warned that the current trajectory of the virus was troubling and that it could grow exponentially if the public are not vigilant against the virus over the coming months. He warned that there may be as many as 200 deaths per day within months.
“50,000 cases per day by mid October”
Speaking on immunity, Patrick Valance stated that although an increase in antibodies would improve the ability for most to resist the virus, this will diminish over time and that a large portion of the population is still at a high risk of contracting the virus and facing significant illness. He stated that immunity may be higher in cities and that the spread may be slightly slower in these areas, but that there is low immunity in the population that will not stop the spread of COVID-19.
Professor Chris Whitty talked through a chart that showed how increasing cases had started in specific geographic locations (such as Leicester) where local lockdowns were needed. However, he showed that cases were now rising across the United Kingdom and that this was not a local problem but “a national one”. This raises the likelihood of another nationwide lockdown in the coming weeks if there is not evidence to suggest the spread is slowing
The pair both stated that the doubling rate (where Coronavirus cases can be expected to double) is around seven days, stating that we have now “turned a corner”, but “a bad one”.
Whitty also stated that “the seasons are against us” by stating that it will likely increase significantly, like seasonal flu’s, throughout the winter months. It is likely a 6-month problem, according to Whitty, with him also stating that the public will have to show extreme concern about the impact.
He also warned against the pervasive belief that the virus outbreak that is now spreading is more mild than the one that ravaged the United Kingdom in the spring. Whitty also stated that the virus is significantly more dangerous than the seasonal flu, warning that although treatments are improving, this does not offset the very real threat the virus poses through the winter.
Professor Chris Whitty also warned of direct and indirect deaths. Direct meaning that the virus will kill many people in the coming months, but indirectly it will take up significant portions of NHS resources, as well as damage the economy, that will result in death from other diseases and conditions.
He warned against the difficult balance needing to be struck between protecting the economy and stopping the virus from ravaging through the country “out of control” once again.
It is not just an individual problem, but by failing to take precautions the professor warned that we are putting everyone at risk.
“It’s not just a me problem”
The importance of taking measures such as “hands, face, space”, as well as wearing masks and ensuring effective track and trace will be significant, whilst the pair also discussed the importance of medical breakthroughs. Chris Whitty warned that inter-household socialising needs to be reduced to prevent the spread of the virus once again.
Concluding the statement on a positive note, Patrick Valance talked through the positive direction that the United Kingdom is heading, suggesting that some isolated groups may be able to have a vaccine by the end of the year. He said it was more likely that there would be a proper publically available vaccine through the first half on 2021.
The statement, more than anything, highlighted that this virus was not going away any time soon. The main point that both Patrick Valance and Chris Whitty emphasised is that this virus is not going to disappear; it is something that we are going to learn to live with.