But the director of the Wellcome Trust said there was “light at the end of the tunnel” because he believes a Covid-19 vaccine and effective treatment will be ready in the first quarter of 2021.
Professor Farrar told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that a nationwide breaker lockout is now needed, saying there could currently be 50,000 cases of coronavirus a day across the UK.
He said: “The Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, which is currently the best data in the country, shows that 27,000 people contract this infection every day. But that was until October 10.
“Today they will be over 50,000, just as CMO (England’s Chief Medical Officer) Chris Whitty and (Government’s Chief Science Officer) Sir Patrick Vallance suggested three weeks ago.
“That would be up to 50,000 new cases across the country every day, and that’s almost exactly where we are at. ”
Asked about Christmas, Professor Farrar said he doesn’t think a vaccine will be ready in time for the holiday season.
He added: “Christmas will be difficult this year. I don’t think it will be the usual party and all the families get together, I’m afraid.
“I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are three to six months from a very, very difficult time.
“The temperatures are dropping, we’re all indoors more often, we have the other infections that occur this time of year.
“It’s better for us to be frank and honest now, and say we’re going through a really tough time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. ”
Professor Farrar said a nationwide short lockout known as a circuit breaker was needed to reduce transmission rates, as Sage previously recommended last month.
He said the “best time” to introduce the temporary lockdown would have been around September 20, but added “it was never too late”.
He said: “The second best time to do it is now, and the worst time to do it is at the end of November when things would have really gotten worse.
“So it’s never too late, it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time. ”
As for a potential vaccine and effective treatments, Professor Farrar said he believed they were “in three to six months”.