CASES of the coronavirus could be “doubling every 20 days”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted.
It comes after government advisers claimed that there could be over 50,000 cases of the virus a day by mid-October.
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Earlier this week chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the epidemic in the UK was doubling every seven days.
The Prime Minister seemed to row back on these claims as he stood in front of MPs at the House of Commons yesterday.
Addressing MPs Mr Johnson said that cases of the virus were actually doubling “between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections a month”.
The Prime Minister’s remarks undermine that of Sir Patrick who, while speaking at a press conference on Monday with Professor Chris Whitty, said an increase in cases could lead to 200 deaths a day by mid-November.
The experts pointed to European countries such as France and Spain and said that we could be following the same trajectory if further restrictions were not imposed soon.
During the conference Sir Patrick said: “At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
“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.
“50,000 cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.
“The challenge therefore is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.”
If cases were to jump 50,000 then the UK would surpass France and Spain, rather than following them when it comes to infection rates.
Sir Patrick was keen to highlight that these were just predictions.
If the UK was to follow the same trajectory as France and Spain then it would be at 10,000 cases a day by October.
At present the growth rate of the virus in the UK is between two and seven per cent.
If cases were doubling every day then the growth rate would reach 10 per cent.
Experts had already cast doubt on the predictions.
Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia said it was key to remember that what was presented at the conference was the “worst case scenario” based on the current state of the epidemic.
He added: “I think it is pretty implausible we will be seeing 50,000 cases a day by the middle of October.
“It’s important to bear in mind that they were not making a prediction, they were presenting an illustration of what would happen if cases continued to double, which they almost certainly will not.”
He added that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if we followed the trajectory of France and Spain and said that it’s “entirely plausible” that we could see 10,000 cases a day by October.
David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Businesses School questioned whether or not it was correct for the advisers to have presented the data in that way.
In a tweet he said: “If you want to compare with France and Spain, why wouldn’t you use their doubling time which is every three weeks, not every week?” he wrote in a Tweet sent directly to Sir Patrick and Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer. “Do @CMO_England and @uksciencechief really think it is acceptable to present data in this way?”
The admission from the Prime Minister yesterday comes as he announced that the UK would have to face some tougher restrictions in order to curb the virus.
Addressing the nation last night, the PM rged Brits to show “discipline, resolve, and the spirit of togetherness” to get Britain through the “difficult” winter months to come – or face a new national lockdown.
The new restrictions include a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, with table service only.
Other restrictions mean that facemasks will be made compulsory for staff in hospitality and close contact places – and taxis too.