British public warned to get serious about safety measures as coronavirus toll set to surge
LONDON (AFP) - The United Kingdom is on track for about 50,000 COVID-19 infections a day by mid-October and a surging death toll unless the public gets serious about preventive action, top British advisors warned on Monday.
Rates of infection in England are replicating the strong resurgence of COVID-19 seen in France and Spain, roughly doubling every seven days, the government's chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a media briefing.
"We are seeing a rate of increase across the great majority of the country," he said, urging the public to respect stricter guidelines on social distancing.
"This is not someone else's problem. It's all of our problem."
The briefing previewed an expected announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week detailing government action to flatten the exponential coronavirus curve heading in to winter, when regular respiratory diseases typically spike.
Johnson last week said Britain was already seeing a second wave of COVID-19, and the government introduced new restrictions for millions of people across northwest, northern and central England.
People in England who refuse to self-isolate to stop the spread of coronavirus could face fines of up to Â£10,000 ($13,000, 11,000 euros) under tough new regulations announced Saturday.
Johnson said that from September 28, people will be legally obliged to self-isolate if they test positive or are told to by the National Health Service (NHS) tracing programme.
Whitty said it was essential for the public to play its part in preventing the NHS being overwhelmed in the colder months.
"We are in a bad sense literally turning a corner, although only relatively recently. At this point the seasons are against us," he said at the briefing, alongside the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
Vallance said that on current trends, the daily count of cases will reach about 50,000 on October 13, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day.
Almost 42,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died in Britain, the worst death toll from the pandemic in Europe.
After a summer lull, cases have been rising rapidly to more than 3,000 daily.
Whitty said "science in due course will ride to our rescue" with a successful vaccine but over the next six months, "if we don't change course, the virus will take off".