The UK’s coronavirus death toll will exceed 100,000, predicts a SAGE professor.
Professor John Edmunds added: “I think total numbers of deaths will be unfortunately measured now in those sorts of numbers, 100,000 or more.”
The current death toll – where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate, is 82,624. Boris Johnson will address the nation at 8pm where he is expected to announce a national lockdown.
Prof Edmunds warned “major additional measures” were needed immediately to control the spread of the virus.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine scientist told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “We’re in a really difficult situation.
“The new strain is significantly more transmissible than the old strains. So we have to take significant extra measures to stop the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with Covid patients.
“Unfortunately we are going to have to take some really major additional measures, I can’t see any other way out of it.
“The biggest lever that has only partly been pulled is school closures. That would have the biggest effect of a single measure and I can see that happening.”
He later added: “What we have to do now, and it’s horrible I know, but we have to take really quite stringent steps right now and as stringent as we can right now.”
Prof Edmunds rejected suggestions that a lack of public compliance with restrictions is a major issue, saying: “I don’t think that’s a major issue myself, I think people are pretty compliant.”
A further 58,784 cases of the virus have also been recorded, with infections passing the 50,000 mark for the seventh day in a row.
Last Monday’s total daily death toll was 357 – with a further 41,385 cases.
Earlier today, figures showed 413 had died in hospital – the highest Monday increase since April.
The fact the hospital figure is higher than the overall figure is likely to be due to the day the death happened, rather than recorded.
Today’s figures come as pressure mounts for a third national lockdown and amid chaos over the reopening of schools in England.
Boris Johnson will give a TV address to the nation on new lockdown plans for England at 8pm.
The Prime Minister is expected to call for tougher measures, which could include plunging the whole of the UK into Tier 4 restrictions and shutting schools.
Ministers are also poised to move the Covid threat alert to five – the highest level – reflecting that there was a “material risk” the NHS could be overwhelmed, according to the BBC.
Mr Johnson will speak directly to the nation after cases soared due to a new variant of Covid-19.
MPs will also be recalled to Parliament on Wednesday to debate the new measures, Downing Street said.
The move comes after Scotland announced a national lockdown, including school closures, would run from midnight tonight until the end of January.
A No10 spokesman said: “The spread of the new variant of COVID-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.
“The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives.
“He will set those out this evening.”