Coronavirus out of control in Britain, chief scientific adviser admits

‘Things are heading in the wrong direction,’ says Vallance as 71 further deaths announced

Britain’s chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and Britain’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance leave 10 Downing street in London on September 30th. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty

Britain’s chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and Britain’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance leave 10 Downing street in London on September 30th. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty

 

Boris Johnson’s chief scientific adviser has admitted that Britain does not have coronavirus under control, as 71 more deaths brought the country’s official death toll from the virus to 42,143. Some 7,108 new cases were also confirmed in the UK on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, Sir Patrick Vallance said epidemics were either doubling or halving.

“When things double you see that exponential growth and there’s clearly fast growth in some areas. And unfortunately as we’ve seen not only cases going up, but we’re already seeing an increase in deaths. So things are heading in the wrong direction,” he said.

“It’s very clear that rates are still going up and we don’t have this under control at the moment.”

Almost a quarter of the British population is under some form of local coronavirus restrictions beyond the national rules limiting social gatherings and pub and restaurant opening hours. But Mr Johnson said that further measures could follow as numbers entering hospital and intensive care units continue to rise.

“We will keep all measures under review. We really don’t want to go into the stay-at-home national lockdown that we saw in March. That’s not what we want to do. We think that we can beat it by other means, but we’ve got to watch what’s happening and we will,” he said.

“We know we can drive down the virus because we did it before. We greatly reduced the number of deaths and massively reduced transmission.”

Revolt avoided

Earlier the government avoided a Conservative backbench revolt by compromising with MPs demanding a vote on all future coronavirus restrictions. Health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs they will be given a vote when important nationwide measures against coronavirus are introduced.

“For significant national measures, with effect in the whole of England or UK-wide, we will consult parliament – wherever possible we will hold votes before such regulations come into force. But of course responding to the virus means that the government must act with speed when required and we cannot hold up urgent regulations which are needed to control the virus and save lives,” he said.

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee and the leader of the backbench rebellion, said Mr Hancock had shown “genuine understanding of what has been wrong in the past and a real promise of transparency and engagement in the future”.

Mr Hancock’s concession came after Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle accused the government of treating parliament with contempt over coronavirus.

“The way in which the government have exercised their powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory. All too often, important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force, and some explanations why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House have been unconvincing; this shows a total disregard for the House,” he said. 

“The government must make greater efforts to prepare measures more quickly, so that this House can debate and decide upon the most significant measures at the earliest possible point”.