The UK faces tough decisions as coronavirus cases spike across the four nations, the government's top scientific advisors, Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty, have warned.
In a briefing on Monday morning, Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick cautioned that the “vast majority of the population remain susceptible” to catching coronavirus and the current situation required swift action to bring the case numbers down.
So what does that mean for us? Here are some of the key points from their 20-minute presentation from Downing Street on Monday.
UK could see 200 deaths a day by mid-November unless we take action
While heavily caveated with a big 'if', the UK could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October and if this current rate of infection is not halted, we will see up to 200 deaths a day in November.
While Sir Patrick stressed that it was not a prediction, the current doubling of cases every seven days could lead to a much higher number of cases and deaths.
In mid-September, around 3,000 new cases were recorded every day in the UK, Sir Patrick said, which was not, as politicians have implied, due to a rise in coronavirus testing.
“Could that increase be due to increased testing? The answer is no. We see an increase in positivity of the tests done – so we see the proportion of people testing positive has increased, even if testing stays flat.”
The UK should be prepared for significant restrictions for the next six months
While a national lockdown remains on the table, the government sees it as a "last line of defence". But it is highly likely we will face tougher restrictions and curbs on our social lives.
Professor Whitty said there was a need to “break unnecessary links” between households and a need to “change course”, adding we cannot fight the virus "without some significant downsides".
Prof Whitty suggested that science would eventually “ride to our rescue” but “in this period of the next six months, I think we have to realise that we have to take this collectively, very seriously”.
Infections have rocketed among under-40s
Professor Whitty said there was “no evidence” that the virus was a milder strain than in April, instead suggesting that the rates had increased among younger adults who were less likely to develop a severe case of Covid-19.
Both Sir Patrick and Professor Whitty warned that the surge in cases among young people who trickle up towards older, more vulnerable as they have done in Europe.
Sir Patrick said in Spain and France the virus had "started with younger people in their 20s and spread gradually to older ages as well”.
“That increasing case number has translated into an increase in hospitalisations.
“As the hospitalisations have increased… very sadly, but not unexpectedly, deaths are also increasing.”
There might be a vaccine by the end of the year - for some
Sir Patrick said that there is a possibility that small amounts of vaccine could be made available to certain groups of people by the end of the year.
He said a number of candidates have shown they can generate an immune response that ought to be protective.
He added: “We don’t yet know they will work but there is increasing evidence that is pointing in the right direction and it is possible that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups.
“Much more likely that we’ll see vaccines becoming available over the first half of next year, again not certain but pointed in the right direction, which then of course gives the possibility of a different approach to this virus.”
Herd immunity is a long way off
Sir Patrick said the size of the UK population with antibodies was still low, making the “vast majority” of people “susceptible” to Covid-19.
Antibodies were not an “absolute protection” either, he said, with the immunity to the illness fading over time.
Speaking at the briefing, Sir Patrick said: “What we see is that something under 8% of the population have been infected as we measure the antibodies.
“So 8%, about three million or so people, may have been infected and have antibodies.
“It means the vast majority of us are not protected in any way and are susceptible to this disease.”
He said antibodies in city populations was a “little higher” and that as many as 17% of people in London could have them, making the spread slower in those areas.