Covid: UK at ‘critical point’ in pandemic, top scientists to warn

The UK is at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic and “heading in the wrong direction”, the government’s chief medical adviser will warn.

Prof Chris Whitty believes the country is facing a “very challenging winter period” and is hold a televised briefing at 11:00 BST.

It comes after the prime minister spent the weekend considering whether to introduce further measures in England.

On Sunday, a further 3,899 daily cases and 18 deaths were reported in the UK.

The prime minister is understood to be considering a two-week mini lockdown in England – being referred to as a “circuit breaker” – in an effort to stem widespread growth of the virus.

He held a meeting at Downing Street on Sunday, along with Prof Whitty, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to discuss possible measures.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the view from No 10 was that while doing nothing “was not an option”, neither was a full national lockdown, and that whatever measures are imposed could be turned “off and on” throughout the winter.

Asked about reports of disagreements among cabinet ministers about whether or not to impose a second lockdown, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “A conversation, a debate, is quite proper and that is exactly what you’d expect.

“Everyone recognises there is a tension between… the virus and the measures we need to take, and the economy and ensuring people’s livelihoods are protected.”

He added it was “very clear when you follow the data” that the UK is “at this tipping point where we may need to go further”.

At the briefing later, Prof Whitty will be joined by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, to present the latest data.

Prof Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

The two scientists are expected to explain how the virus is spreading and the potential scenarios as the winter approaches.

They are also expected to share data on other countries who are experiencing a second wave, and explain how the UK could face similar situations.

Commenting on the upcoming announcement, Mr Shapps said: “I’ve heard their briefing and it is very stark.”