LONDON – The UK government’s top medical adviser has warned that the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus could reach ‘pretty frightening’ levels within weeks as cases skyrocket due to the more contagious delta variant and the lifting of lock restrictions.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told a webinar hosted by the Science Museum in London on Thursday evening that the UK was “not out of the woods yet”.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly quickly,” Whitty said.
New coronavirus infections in the UK have peaked in six months, government figures show, and the number of people hospitalized and dead with COVID-19 is at its highest level since March. Data on Thursday showed 3,786 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 63 other deaths linked to the virus.
At the height of the second wave earlier this year, about 40,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and deaths have reached about 1,500 people per day.
Another 48,553 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported Thursday, the highest daily figure since January 15. The government has warned that daily infections could reach 100,000 this summer, a level never before seen during the pandemic, with most new cases seen in younger people. age groups, many of whom have not yet been vaccinated.
The British government, which on Monday lifts all remaining legal restrictions on social gatherings in England, hopes the rapid rollout of vaccines will limit the number of people who become seriously ill.
More than two-thirds of UK adults have received both doses of a vaccine and almost 88% have received one.
Whitty warned that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is doubling about every three weeks and could reach “pretty scary numbers” if the trend continues.
“We’re not out of the woods yet on this, we’re in much better shape thanks to the immunization program, drugs and a variety of other things,” he said.
“But it has a long way to go in the UK, and it is even more so globally,” he added.
The surge in infections has had a ripple effect on the number of people self-isolating after coming into contact with a confirmed case of the coronavirus. More than 500,000 people have been contacted by the National Health Service app and ordered to self-isolate in the seven days leading up to July 7.
Companies including automakers, meat processors and hotel establishments have reported staff shortages as the app has asked many employees to self-quarantine.
The government has expressed concerns about the scale of the problem and is considering whether the app could be made less sensitive to reduce the number of pings.
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