The UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
Sir Patrick Vallance said that “would be expected to lead to about 200 deaths per day” a month after that.
It comes as the PM prepares to chair a Cobra emergency committee meeting on Tuesday morning, then make a statement in the House of Commons.
On Sunday, a further 3,899 daily cases and 18 deaths were reported in the UK.
Speaking at Downing Street alongside chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick stressed the figures given were not a prediction, but added: “At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days… if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.
“Fifty-thousand cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.
“The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.
“That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”
Prof Whitty added that if cases continued to double every seven days as Sir Patrick had set out, then the UK could “quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers because of that exponential process”.
“So we have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner, although only relatively recently,” he said.
Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick also said:
The rising case numbers could not be blamed on an increase in testing as there is also an “increase in positivity of the tests done”
Around 70,000 people in the UK are estimated to currently have the disease – and about 6,000 per day are catching it (based on an ONS study)
Less than 8% of the population has been infected, although the figure could be as high as 17% in London
The rising transmission is a “six-month problem that we have to deal with collectively”
The virus is not milder now than in April, despite claims to the contrary
It is possible “that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups” but “the first half of next year” is much more likely