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THE UK could soon face 50,000 new cases and 200 dead per day unless ministers take more action to protect the public, the government’s scientific advisers warned today.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the government’s top scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance spoke from Downing Street, unaccompanied by ministers for the first time, after infection rates rose to 6,000 people per day.
Prof Whitty said that the country stands at a “critical point,” with the current trend heading in “the wrong direction” as cases approximately double each week.
Mr Vallance said that the recent rise in infections in all age groups was not due to increased testing.
He warned that if current infection rates continue, there may be 50,000 cases per day by the middle of October and 200 or more deaths per day by mid-November.
It came as the government continued to bungle on the NHS app — due to launch four months late on Thursday — as it backtracked on its earlier claim that it would no longer be used for its intended purpose of tracking and tracing the virus.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis warned that the situation is “spiralling out of control” and that the current measures and “mixed signals” are not enough.
“There’s simply no time for complacency. The government must make public safety a priority,” he said.
“Strict social distancing, fixing the bungled testing system and ensuring low-paid staff don’t take a financial hit for staying off work are crucial.
“Key workers in the NHS, care, schools and other public services must be protected for all our sakes.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This rapid spike in infections was not inevitable, but a consequence of the government’s incompetence and failure to put in place an adequate testing system.”
He called for an effective testing and tracing system with support for people to self-isolate, and for a Cobra meeting of all regions to be urgently held.
A new poll commissioned by public-ownership campaign We Own It revealed today that three quarters of the British public want the track-and-trace system to be run by public health teams and local health services rather than private companies.
Serco and call-centre company Sitel were initially contracted to run the system up to August 23, but their contracts were extended with a potential value of £528 million for an undisclosed period.
We Own It director Cat Hobbs said: “It’s absolutely staggering that the government is clinging doggedly to its failed, privatised system.
“It’s time for them to face reality. It’s time for them to kick the private companies out of the system and give local public health protection teams the resources to run it instead.”
Areas in north-west England, West Yorkshire and the Midlands face further local restrictions from on Tuesday.
And in Wales, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent will be placed under a local lockdown from 6pm.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today that the final decisions on national restrictions were still being made, but hinted at curbs to households socialising and refused to say whether pubs in England would still be open this weekend.
Social-media users were angry at the government’s silence following the scientists’ announcement and the hashtag #WhereisBorisJohnson was trending on Twitter.
The PM is expected to hold a press conference on Tuesday.
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