BRITS have “relaxed too much” with end-of-lockdown parties sparking a spike in coronavirus infections, a top health chief has warned.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said a surge in cases in the 17 to 21 age group has now become increasingly worrying.
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And he added the wild parties witnessed across the country after lockdown measures were eased have now started to take their toll.
He revealed the “downstream consequences” of the gatherings are that the country is now seeing increased cases of transmission and faces a “bumpy ride” ahead.
Prof Van-Tam added: “I am quite concerned that we must take this seriously so that we don’t end up with a spreading problem over the next few weeks and months.”
And he pointed out that party-loving youngsters must remember they are “potent spreaders” infecting the elderly.
“Where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population they do in turn filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups,” he said.
“The fact that 17 to 21-year-olds are not becoming ill means they are lucky, but they also forget because the disease is not severe for them that they are potent spreaders.”
He said: “For the first time I think I see a trend that this is no longer about disease in those specific hotspots, such as Leicester a few months ago, the North West more recently, but there is a more general and creeping geographic trend across the UK, across England, that disease levels are now beginning to turn up on a wider geographical basis.
“That again is a signal that we’ve got to start taking this very seriously again.”
There were a further 2,948 confirmed cases of coronavirus today following the 2,988 reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.
Prof Van-Tam said: “This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point.
“We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.
“And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.
“People have relaxed too much. Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us.”
He urged politicians and public health officials to think how to manage the crisis not in the short term but through “the next six months and how we get through this until the spring”.
The professor added that it was “clear” that the level of compliance with restrictions “is very variable indeed”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the “important advice” having earlier described the recent increase in cases as “concerning” as he tried to remind young people of the dangers of the situation.
“Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on,” he told told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat.
The warnings came as Caerphilly in south Wales prepared to be placed under local lockdown.
People cannot enter or leave the borough without a reasonable excuse when new restrictions are imposed at 6pm on Tuesday.
Meetings with other people indoors will be banned and everyone over 11 will have to wear masks in shops, the first time the measure has been made mandatory in Wales.
The South Wales borough has seen 133 new Covid-19 cases over the past seven days, equivalent to a rate of 55.4 cases per 100,000 population, giving it one of the highest rates in the UK.
Meanwhile, restrictions on household visits across western parts of Scotland were extended for a further week and expanded to also include East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.