Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other officials are considering reimposition of lockdowns as the U.K. struggles to keep up with the recent surge in coronavirus cases amid warnings from health officials that daily new cases could reach 50,000 by mid-October if action is not taken.
As of Monday, the U.K. had more than 400,000 confirmed cases and led Europe with 41,806 reported deaths from COVID-19.
“At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” U.K. chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said during a Monday press conference. “If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days, if that continued, you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.”
“Fifty-thousand cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.”
Despite this warning, Johnson repeatedly has said he does not want to impose a lockdown similar to the one in March shortly after the pandemic hit. He said Friday he hasn’t ruled out another lockdown, but would only order one as a final option if the surge worsens.
“There’s no question that we are now seeing a second wave coming in,” Johnson said Friday while visiting Oxford. “We’ve seen in France and Spain, across Europe. It’s been, I’m afraid, absolutely inevitable that we would see it in this country.”
“We want to keep the schools open — that’s going to happen. I will try and keep all parts of the economy open, as far as we possibly can.”
Johnson pointed to the recently introduced the “rule of six,” which bans gatherings of more than six people, indoors or out, as one of the efforts meant to help avoid a lockdown so the country can continue reopening. However, he appeared to concede the “rule of six” has been largely ineffective and cases are continuing to rise.
“I don’t think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown but clearly, when you look at what is happening, you’ve got to wonder whether we need to go further than the ‘rule of six’ that we brought in on Monday,” Johnson said.
Johnson is scheduled to speak next at the House of Commons on Tuesday.