The UK is still in difficult situation and people should abide to safety measures as Covid restrictions in England end on Monday, England’s chief medical office Prof Chris Whitty has said.
Prof Whitty warned that hospital admissions were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” if the trend continues. “The pandemic still had a “long way to run in the UK,” he said.
It comes as the UK recorded nearly 50,000 new cases on Thursday – the highest daily number since January.
Prof Whitty told an online seminar hosted by the Science Museum on Thursday evening: “I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast.”
He added: “We are not by any means out of the woods yet on this, we are in much better shape due to the vaccine programme, and drugs, and a variety of other things.”
“But this has got a long way to run in the UK, and it’s got even further to run globally.”
He said while the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 at the moment was “mercifully much lower than it was previously”, he insisted the number was “not trivial”.
“We’ve still got over 2,000 people in hospital and that number is increasing,” he said.
But Prof Whitty said the key on 19 July was “to take things incredibly slowly” – adding that he fully anticipated most people would still take precautions.
“If you look over what people have done, and in fact if you look at what people intend to do now, people have been incredibly good at saying, ‘I may be a relatively low risk, but people around me are at high risk, and I’m going to modify my behaviours, I’m going to reduce my contacts, I’m going to improve ventilation…’,” he said.
From 19 July, almost all legal restriction on social contact will be removed in England, but some guidance will remain. Different rules apply in the the rest of the UK.
Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen for the first time since March last year and capacity limits will be removed for all venues and events.
There will no longer be any limits on how many people can meet and the 1m-plus distancing rule will also end.
The legal requirement to wear face coverings in some enclosed public places will expire, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously said masks would still be “expected and recommended” in crowded indoor areas.