TWO of the UK's leading scientific advisors have warned action needs to be taken to control the coronavirus as the winter approaches.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, and Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, held a press conference in which they warned the public of the rising numbers of coronavirus cases and hospital admissions.

Looking at UK-wide figures, Sir Patrick said the number of people being infected appears to be doubling roughly every seven days.


If this continues into mid-October, this may result in 50,000 new cases per day, which in turn, a month later, could lead to 200 plus deaths a day.

"We've seen an increase in the number of cases, starting in young people and moving into older people as well," he said.

"The challenge is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days - there are already things in place which are expected to slow that - and to make sure we do not enter into this exponential growth and end up with the problems that you would predict as a result of that.

"That requires speed, that requires action, and it requires enough to be able to bring that down.

"As we see it, cases are increasing, hospitalisations are following, deaths unfortunately will follow that, and there is the potential for this to move very fast."

Sir Patrick said there were cases of people being reinfected by the virus, and that currently, around eight per cent of people (about three million people) may have been infected and have developed antibodies to protect against coronavirus, meaning "the vast majority of us are not protected in any way and are susceptible to this disease."

Although Prof Whitty used figures from England, he said there were similar trends across the UK.

"This is not someone else's problem, this is all of our problem," he said.

The number of hospital inpatients in England is doubling every seven to eight days, said Prof Whitty, and the number of deaths directly from coronavirus is rising - "potentially on an exponential curve."

"We have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner, although only relatively recently."

Prof Whitty added the conditions over the late autumn and winter were "very likely" to benefit the spread of coronavirus, and containing the spread of coronavirus should be seen as a six-month problem.

"At this point, the seasons are against us," he said.

Prof Whitty also dismissed the view that the disease was now milder than in earlier in the year, saying there was "no evidence that is the case."

He warned that if coronavirus gets out of control, we could see more direct coronavirus deaths, NHS emergency services may be overwhelmed, and, if the NHS is focused on treating coronavirus patients, it could lead to a reduction in treatments in other areas.

"If I as an individual increase my own risk, I increase the risk to everyone around me and everyone who is a contact of theirs," added Prof Whitty.

"You cannot just take your own risk. It's important we see this as something we have to do collectively."

Sir Patrick concluded the press conference by giving an update on the progress of a vaccine, saying there is "good progress that is being made" and it is "likely" a vaccine will become available "over the first half of next year."