UK resists second lockdown despite Covid cases doubling every nine days

Scientists brace for up to 85,000 deaths in second wave

Many people wearing face masks as they move along a main shopping street in Nottingham, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020.  The Nottingham area will move into the Tier 3 highest level of coronavirus restrictions on upcoming Thursday because of a surge in COVID-19.  (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

The coronavirus pandemic is doubling in size every nine days across England as scientists prepare for up to 85,000 deaths in the second wave.

But the UK government said it was “doing everything we can” to avoid a destructive second national lockdown, despite the alarming figures.

An Imperial College London analysis suggested almost 100,000 people in England were catching coronavirus every day – five times Wednesday’s official figure of 24,701.

Reposnding to it, UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick conceded that the disease was “in a bad place in all parts of the country”.

But he told Sky News: “We don’t want to create a second national lockdown.

“We know that it has some effect on bearing down on the virus but we also know it’s very destructive. We will do everything we can to avoid that situation.”

Mr Jenrick said the government would continue with its regional approach because it did not want a “stop-start country” in which businesses faced uncertainty.

“We are considering the options regularly but at the moment a [circuit-breaker lockdown] is not the right approach,” he said.

ICL’s influential React-1 study found the disease was accelerating in all parts of England.

The authors said the country was at a “critical stage” and “something has to change”.

The analysis, which involved testing more than 85,000 volunteers, found 128 of every 10,000 people were infected in England in the two weeks ending October 25, compared with 60 for every 10,000 in the fortnight ending October 5.

Infections were doubling every nine days with a national reproduction number estimated at 1.56, compared with 1.16 in the previous round, the study found.

The report estimates there are about 96,000 new infections a day.

Prof Steven Riley, one of the authors, said there were “genuine benefits” to a national approach.

“If we’re going to do that we need to think about timing," Prof Riley told BBC Radio 4. “Sooner is better than later.”

Meanwhile, a leaked report from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies revealed scientists were planning for the second wave to kill 85,000 people, in a “reasonable worst-case” scenario.

There could be 500 daily deaths for at least three months, with a peak of 800 a day by "late February 2021", said the report, which was leaked to The Spectator.

The report said lockdown rules would need to be “sustained until the end of March 2021”.

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