Hospital numbers ‘could get scary!’ – admits Professor Chris Whitty

NHS staff outside the BBC last September highlight the number of NHS workers who have died from Covid-19 – there are now over a thousand

‘COVID hospital numbers could get scary!’ Professor Chris Whitty said yesterday, adding that the UK is ‘not out of the woods yet’.

‘People should act with caution as Covid restrictions in England end on Monday,’ Whitty added.

He continued that Covid hospitalisations were doubling every three weeks and could hit ‘scary numbers’ in future, and that the pandemic still had a ‘long way to run in the UK’.

The Solicitor General Lucy Frazer said that there may well be a case for further restrictions.

She warned that while there were ‘consequences for not opening up’ … ‘Of course, if we get into a situation where it is unacceptable and we do need to put back further restrictions, then that of course is something the government will look at.’

The UK recorded almost 50,000 new cases on Thursday – the highest daily number since January.

More than half a million self-isolation alerts were sent to people using the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales during the first week of July – a rise of 46% on the previous week.

Meat processors warned of product shortages due to staff absences, driven by ‘pings’ sent from the app.

The RMT trade union, representing rail workers, yesterday warned that ‘the current surge in people being pinged with self-isolation instructions will jack up again on Monday due to the government’s confused and conflicting messaging with respect to mask wearing and other Covid safety measures on transport services from the 19th July.

General Secretary Mick Lynch said ‘RMT warned earlier this week that the government’s botched handling of continuing Covid protection measures on public transport from Monday would have dire consequences and the sheer incompetence of those calling the shots will see a surge in workers pinged with a self-isolation instruction next week.

‘Even at this late stage the government, the train operators and the bus companies should issue a clear, legally backed instruction that levels up the rest of the UK up to the safety standards that will remain in force in Wales and Scotland.’

Meanwhile, Professor Whitty told an online seminar hosted by the Science Museum on Thursday evening that the situation could become very dangerous for individual hospitals.

He said: ‘I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast.

‘I think saying the numbers in hospital are low now, that does not mean the numbers will be low in hospital in five, six, seven, eight weeks’ time.

‘They could actually be really quite serious.’

He added: ‘We’ve still got 2,000 people in hospital and that number is increasing. If we double from 2,000 to 4,000 from 4,000 to 8,000, 8,000 and so on it doesn’t take many doubling times until you’re in very, very large numbers indeed.’

Witty concluded: ‘It is crucial that from 19 July in England, people take things incredibly slowly’ – adding that he anticipated most people would still take precautions.

The UK’s two largest supermarkets – Tesco and Sainsbury’s – have said they will continue to ask shoppers to wear masks from Monday to protect staff and shoppers.