Former Chief Scientific Adviser urges PM to "push the panic button" as Covid cases soar

21 August 2020, 16:54

By Fiona Jones

Former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King calls for the Government to "push the panic button" as coronavirus cases soar.

The UK's coronavirus R number has risen to between 0.9 and 1.1, according to the government's scientific advisory group.

According to data released on Friday by the Government Office for Science (GOS) and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the UK's infection rate has now increased from the range of between 0.8 and 1.0 one week ago.

The R number represents the number of people on average someone with Covid-19 will likely go on to infect. The government scientists suggests that any number above one should be avoided at all costs.

Former Chief Scientific Adviser and independent SAGE chair Sir David King confirmed that this news is indeed "yikes."

He told Eddie that last week there were 5,200 new coronavirus cases and this week already there has been 6,600 new cases reported; at its minimum case numbers were below 4,000.

"Overall we've risen from a number of around 4,000 to 6,600 and I would say time to push the panic button," Sir David said.

"The month of August, a summer month, is a time where we should have got Covid-19 down to close to zero. We should have put the flames out instead of letting the embers continue...far too early we lifted some of the lockdown measures, in particular having pubs able to serve people indoors.

"A little more patience on that, even from mid-July onwards, and we would have been close to zero now."

He continued that the reason why this is "very serious" is due to the imminent opening of schools and universities: "That is again going to be risky if we have this level of infection in the country at large.

"The Government has to respond and respond extremely quickly."

From this point the Prime Minister should stop the serving of food and drink indoors, he told Eddie.

Sir David acknowledged that local outbreaks across the country will have skewed the overall figures, but this was still "absolutely to be anticipated."

"Tardy action by Government is really underlying this situation."

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