Coronavirus outbreak at critical point, England’s chief medic says

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Britain stands at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic, the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty will warn as he lays the ground for tough new controls in an urgent attempt to halt the surge in infections.

In a televised briefing on Monday, Prof Whitty will say the country faces a “very challenging winter”, with the current trend heading in “the wrong direction”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent the weekend with senior ministers and advisers discussing what action to take as the rise in the number of new cases showed no sign of slowing.
Mr Johnson is expected to announce more new measures in a press conference as early as Tuesday.

Spreading

Prof Whitty, who will appear alongside the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, will explain how the virus is spreading in the UK and the potential scenarios that could unfold as winter approaches.

They will draw on data from other countries such as Spain and France, which are experiencing a second surge, to underline how their experience could be replicated in the UK.
Prof Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

It comes as influential Tory MP Graham Brady signalled that ministers could face backbench resistance if they try to introduce new lockdown measures without proper scrutiny in Parliament.

The British people are not used to being treated like children.

He said ministers had “got into the habit of ruling by decree”, adding: “The British people are not used to being treated like children.”
He is tabling an amendment that would require the Government to put any new measures before a vote of MPs.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government’s actions were dictated by the need to act quickly.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re in a situation we’ve not seen literally since the war where we’ve had to act at incredible pace.

Ministers are reported to be split on how far any new restrictions should go, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be resisting controls which could further damage the economy.
Mr Shapps denied there had been a row in the Cabinet, but said: “A debate is quite proper, that’s exactly what you would expect.”

National lockdown

During a series of broadcast interviews over the weekend, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out a second national lockdown in England, if people fail to follow the social distancing rules.
He said he feared cases could go “shooting through the roof” with more hospitalisations and more deaths.

Meanwhile London mayor Sadiq Khan is to meet council leaders in the city on Monday to discuss possible new restrictions in the capital, which they would then put to ministers.

Another 3,899 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were announced on Sunday, while a further 18 people died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 41,777.

As of Tuesday, about 13.5 million people across the UK will be facing some form of local restrictions, including 10pm curfews for pubs and restaurants, as the authorities grapple with the disease.

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