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UK ‘must act fast to stop Covid-19 cases growing exponentially’ with country facing ‘hard lockdown’

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The UK needs to act fast to stop coronavirus cases growing out of control, with a delay of even a few days potentially “dangerous”, an academic who advises the Government has said.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine, Imperial College London, said a “trickle” of cases can turn into a “cascade”, adding that if people do not abide by the “rule of six” now then the country faces going back into “hard lockdown”.

His comments come as concerns grow over an increase in Covid-19 cases in care homes, prompting the Government to send an alert to care providers to highlight the rising rates and to call for action.

The letter, sent on Friday, urges care bosses to “take the necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks”, pointing out that in the last three days there had been an increase in notifications of coronavirus cases in care homes.

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At the moment it is the workforce that is most affected, but the letter says that “clearly” there is a risk that the virus will spread to residents and in some cases already has.

A Department of Health report marked “official sensitive” was also circulated on Friday said the rate of coronavirus recorded through satellite tests, used in care homes, had quadrupled since the start of the month, according to the Sunday Times.

The newspaper also said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was given an emergency update on Wednesday saying that outbreaks had been detected in 43 care homes.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Throughout our coronavirus response we have been doing everything we can to ensure all staff and residents in care homes are protected.”

UK sees highest Saturday rise in new coronavirus cases in 4 months

Prof Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) which advises the Government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses, said if the virus is in care homes it will inevitably lead to hospital admissions and deaths.

Speaking on Sky’s Ridge On Sunday, he said: “We know that these are very vulnerable pockets. It’s not just in the younger people, it’s starting to appear in people more vulnerable and that inevitably is going to be followed by hospital admissions and deaths so we need to act quickly.

“And this isn’t a game. We shouldn’t be out trying to party as hard as we can in the run up to Monday’s lockdown.

“We should all be really thinking about what we can do now to slow down the spread.”

UK on the edge of losing control of coronavirus, says scientist Sir Mark Walport

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that up to 4.5 million people deemed to be at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 will be asked to stay at home again or given tailored advice on protecting themselves if cases rise to dangerous levels.

The newspaper said people identified using a new “risk model” based on factors such as underlying health conditions, age, sex and weight will receive letters containing specific advice.

The plan is initially due to operate in areas with severe levels of infection, but officials are prepared to roll it out nationwide if required, a source told the newspaper.

And according to the paper, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to be considering introducing a 10pm or 11pm curfew on restaurants, bars and pubs if local measures are unable to bring the spread of the virus under control.

London during Coronavirus lockdown – In pictures

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A woman jogging near City Hall, London, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown

PA

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An image of Queen Elizabeth II and quotes from her broadcast on Sunday to the UK and the Commonwealth in relation to the coronavirus epidemic are displayed on lights in London’s Piccadilly Circus

PA

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A pedestrian walks past a billboard reading « Please believe these days will pass » on Broadway Market in east London

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Military vehicles cross Westminster Bridge

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Boris Johnson

Jeremy Selwyn

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Sun-seekers cool off in the water and sunbathe on the riverbank at Hackney Marshes in east London

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Ed Davey is shown on screens as he speaks via videolink during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London

PA

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A herd of fallow deer graze on the lawns in front of a housing estate in Harold Hill in east London

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A woman wearing a mask crosses a bridge over Camden Lock, London

PA

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An empty Millenium Bridge

PA

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A sign advertising a book titled « How Will We Survive On Earth? » is seen on an underground station platform

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People push to enter the Niketown shop in Londo

AP

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Jo Proudlove and daughter Eve, 9, follow the daily online « PE with Joe » Joe Wickes’ exercise class on « Fancy dress Friday

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Police in Westminster

Jeremy Selwyn

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Waterloo station looking empty

PA

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A quiet Parliament Square

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PABest
A man walks along a passageway at London’s Oxford Street Underground station the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus

PA

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Social distancing markers around the camel enclosure at ZSL London Zoo

PA

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A police car patrols Greenwich Park in London

PA

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The Premier League in action in front of empty stands

AP

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Novikov restaurant in London with its shutters pulled down while the restaurant is closed.

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A deserted Piccadilly Circus

PA

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A general view is seen of a deserted Trafalgar Square

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The iconic Abbey Road crossing is seen after a re-paint by a Highways Maintenance team as they take advantage of the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown and quiet streets to refresh the markings

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A view of 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building) in the City of London, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

PA

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A deserted Chinatown

PA

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A person looks at graffiti on a JD Wetherspoon pub in Crystal Palace, south London. Wetherspoons workers have described founder Tim Martin’s lack of support for his chain’s 40,000 employees as « absolutely outrageous »

PA

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The London ExCel centre that has been turned into a makeshift NHS Hospital and critical care unit to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic

PA

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The Palace Theatre, which usually shows the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue

PA

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The Sondheim Theatre, which usually shows the Les Miserables musical, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue

PA

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Two members of a British Army mounted regiment exercise their horses in Parliament Square

AP

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Westminster Bridge is deserted

PA

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A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

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An empty street and bus stop at St James’s Park

. via .

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Whitehall

Jeremy Selwyn

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A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

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A single pedestrian walks past The national Gallery

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London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

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Kings Cross and St Pancras

Jeremy Selwyn

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Buckingham Palace looking empty in London,

PA

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London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

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Kings Cross and St Pancras

Jeremy Selwyn

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London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

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London’s Carnaby Street empty as shops closed after a lockdown was announced in the latest bid to stop the spread of coronavirus through the UK

AP

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A quiet Jubilee line westbound train carriage

PA

48/50

A single pedestrian walks past The national Gallery

. via .

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A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

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Empty Embankment

Jeremy Selwyn

1/50

A woman jogging near City Hall, London, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown

PA

2/50

An image of Queen Elizabeth II and quotes from her broadcast on Sunday to the UK and the Commonwealth in relation to the coronavirus epidemic are displayed on lights in London’s Piccadilly Circus

PA

3/50

A pedestrian walks past a billboard reading « Please believe these days will pass » on Broadway Market in east London

. via .

4/50

Military vehicles cross Westminster Bridge

.

5/50

Boris Johnson

Jeremy Selwyn

6/50

Sun-seekers cool off in the water and sunbathe on the riverbank at Hackney Marshes in east London

. via .

7/50

Ed Davey is shown on screens as he speaks via videolink during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London

PA

8/50

A herd of fallow deer graze on the lawns in front of a housing estate in Harold Hill in east London

. via .

9/50

A woman wearing a mask crosses a bridge over Camden Lock, London

PA

10/50

An empty Millenium Bridge

PA

11/50

A sign advertising a book titled « How Will We Survive On Earth? » is seen on an underground station platform

.

12/50

People push to enter the Niketown shop in Londo

AP

13/50

Jo Proudlove and daughter Eve, 9, follow the daily online « PE with Joe » Joe Wickes’ exercise class on « Fancy dress Friday

.

14/50

Police in Westminster

Jeremy Selwyn

15/50

Waterloo station looking empty

PA

16/50

.

17/50

A quiet Parliament Square

.

18/50

PABest
A man walks along a passageway at London’s Oxford Street Underground station the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus

PA

19/50

Social distancing markers around the camel enclosure at ZSL London Zoo

PA

20/50

A police car patrols Greenwich Park in London

PA

21/50

The Premier League in action in front of empty stands

AP

22/50

Novikov restaurant in London with its shutters pulled down while the restaurant is closed.

23/50

A deserted Piccadilly Circus

PA

24/50

A general view is seen of a deserted Trafalgar Square

. via .

25/50

.

26/50

The iconic Abbey Road crossing is seen after a re-paint by a Highways Maintenance team as they take advantage of the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown and quiet streets to refresh the markings

.

27/50

A view of 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building) in the City of London, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

PA

28/50

A deserted Chinatown

PA

29/50

A person looks at graffiti on a JD Wetherspoon pub in Crystal Palace, south London. Wetherspoons workers have described founder Tim Martin’s lack of support for his chain’s 40,000 employees as « absolutely outrageous »

PA

30/50

The London ExCel centre that has been turned into a makeshift NHS Hospital and critical care unit to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic

PA

31/50

The Palace Theatre, which usually shows the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue

PA

32/50

The Sondheim Theatre, which usually shows the Les Miserables musical, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue

PA

33/50

Two members of a British Army mounted regiment exercise their horses in Parliament Square

AP

34/50

Westminster Bridge is deserted

PA

35/50

A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

36/50

An empty street and bus stop at St James’s Park

. via .

37/50

Whitehall

Jeremy Selwyn

38/50

A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

39/50

A single pedestrian walks past The national Gallery

. via .

40/50

London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

41/50

Kings Cross and St Pancras

Jeremy Selwyn

42/50

Buckingham Palace looking empty in London,

PA

43/50

London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

44/50

Kings Cross and St Pancras

Jeremy Selwyn

45/50

London Bridge Station

Jeremy Selwyn

46/50

London’s Carnaby Street empty as shops closed after a lockdown was announced in the latest bid to stop the spread of coronavirus through the UK

AP

47/50

A quiet Jubilee line westbound train carriage

PA

48/50

A single pedestrian walks past The national Gallery

. via .

49/50

A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station

PA

50/50

Empty Embankment

Jeremy Selwyn

The move stems from a concern that adherence to social distancing measures diminishes the more people consume alcohol.

It comes as more than 3,000 coronavirus cases were recorded overall in the UK for the second day in a row – the first time since mid-May that recorded cases have been above that level on consecutive days.

The Government said that as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 3,497 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, slightly lower than the 3,539 cases recorded on Friday.

Speaking about the rise in cases, Prof Openshaw said: “I think everyone is in agreement that we really need to act very quickly now in order to prevent this from growing exponentially.

Read more

“I think that’s the main point is that we must act fast because it’s so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay.

“Even a few days is potentially going to be quite dangerous now at this particular moment.”

Former chief scientific adviser and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) Sir Mark Walport has warned that the country is “on the edge of losing control” of Covid-19.

Asked if he thinks Sir Mark is right, Prof Openshaw told Ridge: “Well yes I think that is right.”

Tough new Covid-19 lockdown measures were announced for parts of the UK on Friday as cases continued to rise and as the R number – the RÉSERVÉE number of coronavirus transmission – climbed above one.

According to Government advisers, the last time R was above one was in early March.

Additional reporting by PA Media

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