“We are now at the worst time of this epidemic for the UK. In the future we will have the vaccine, but the numbers are now higher than they were at the previous peak – by far, ”England’s chief medical officer said. Chris Whitty told the BBC, adding that he expects the next few weeks to be the “most dangerous time”.
The country, which has already suffered more deaths from the disease than any other European country and recently became the fifth country in the world to reach the grim milestone of three million cases, is on the verge of seeing its hospitals overwhelmed.
Whitty told the BBC on Monday that there were currently more than 30,000 patients in hospital, up from 18,000 when the virus first spiked in the UK in April.
“We are now in a situation where in the UK as a whole around one in 50 people are infected, and in London around one in 30 people,” Whitty said. “There’s a very good chance that if you run into someone unnecessarily, they’ll have Covid. ”
Whitty stressed that minimizing contact with others will prevent the situation from escalating.
“Every unnecessary contact that either of us has is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will eventually lead to a vulnerable person,” he told the BBC. “So the absolute key for all of us is to think that we really need to have that contact?” ”
Whitty’s intervention comes as the daily death toll in the UK remains very high, a point gravely illustrated by the fact that in a county in southern England, bodies are being stored in a temporary facility while mortuaries are at full capacity.
The temporary facility in Surrey, south London, can hold an additional 800 bodies, in addition to the 600 that can be held in mortuaries.
A spokesperson for the Surrey Local Resilience Forum told UK news agency PA: “To put this into perspective, in the first wave 700 bodies passed through this (temporary) facility… The first wave lasted about 12 weeks after from mid-March to mid-May… Since December 21, after only two and a half weeks, they have passed 300 bodies.
The UK has been ahead of the Covid-19 vaccine approval curve and on Monday the government is expected to explain how it will meet its goal of vaccinating 13 million people by February 15.
Much of the program will be run by vaccination centers across the country – the first of which will open on Monday – and an army of volunteers who have been trained to administer the vaccine.
And even the good news that two million people have been vaccinated has been soured by reported vaccine shortages in some hospitals. It is not known why the shortages are occurring; the government has been criticized for the way it plans to prioritize the distribution of the doses it has available.
If Whitty’s worst fears come true then the National Health Service will come under enormous pressure as it tries to cope with unprecedented hospitalizations, care for corpses, vaccinate the most vulnerable citizens. while performing normal procedures.
The government hopes that Whitty’s stern warnings will force citizens to comply with measures to stop the spread of the virus.