UK is at ‘tipping point’ of Covid crisis, says senior health official | World news

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The UK is at a “tipping point” in the Covid-19 crisis and must act swiftly to avoid history “repeating itself”, the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, has said.

In a stark warning highlighting “the worst is yet to come if we don’t all act now”, Van-Tam said the country was “at a tipping point similar to where we were in March” and that the approach of winter made the situation even more grave.

“Winter in the NHS is always a difficult period, and that is why in the first wave our strategy was ‘contain, delay, research and mitigate’ to push the first wave into spring,” he said. “This time it is different as we are now are going into the colder, darker winter months. We are in the middle of a severe pandemic and the seasons are against us. Basically, we are running into a headwind.”

An estimated 224,000 people have contracted the virus this week up from 116,000 a week ago, according to the Office for National Statistics. In his statement, Van-Tam asked people to stick to the rules to suppress the resurgence of the virus by washing hands regularly, wearing face coverings in confined spaces, practising social distancing and self-isolating after testing positive.

cases in UK

In a paper last month, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told ministers that most people in the UK who had Covid-19 or who had been exposed to somebody who had tested positive fail to fully self-isolate.

Hospital and intensive care admissions are on the rise, and although the spread initially was limited to younger adults, signs that it was making its way to the elderly in worst affected areas was apparent, Van-Tam said.

“Sadly, just as night follows day, increases in deaths will now follow on in the next few weeks,” he added.

The call to arms comes as Boris Johnson gears up to unveil a three-tier lockdown system for England – designed to streamline the current patchwork of localised restrictions that apply to about a quarter of the UK – with an all-encompassing set of potentially harsher restrictions including the closure of pubs and a ban on all social contact outside of household groups.

The R number for the UK is between 1.2 and 1.5 , with every NHS region of England with an R well above 1, suggesting widespread increases in transmission continues across the country, not just in the north of England, Van-Tam said.

R, or the ‘effective reproduction number’, is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread. It’s the average number of people on to whom one infected person will pass the virus. For an R of anything above 1, an epidemic will grow exponentially. Anything below 1 and an outbreak will fizzle out – eventually.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated R for coronavirus was between 2 and 3 – higher than the value for seasonal flu, but lower than for measles. That means each person would pass it on to between two and three people on average, before either recovering or dying, and each of those people would pass it on to a further two to three others, causing the total number of cases to snowball over time.

The reproduction number is not fixed, though. It depends on the biology of the virus; people’s behaviour, such as social distancing; and a population’s immunity. A country may see regional variations in its R number, depending on local factors like population density and transport patterns.

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

Scientists have estimated that the doubling time for new infections is between eight and 16 days, and even faster in some areas of the country.

Van-Tam said: “We need to be realistic and help the NHS help us. Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed. Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK is at ‘tipping point’ of Covid crisis, says senior health official | World news

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