England’s chief medical officer has said the next few weeks will be the worst of the pandemic as he urged everyone to minimise meeting people.
Prof Chris Whitty said the public should not wait for any government “tinkering” with rules but should “double down” now on avoiding any unnecessary contacts.
Pleading with the public he said: “Even within them [the rules], we should be doing our level best to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people who are not in our household. I can’t emphasise that enough.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said the NHS was facing its “most dangerous” point.
He said: “In London for example one in 30 people currently have this coronavirus, across the country as a whole, it’s one in 50. So this is a serious problem, and it’s rising in every part of England.”
He added: “This new variant is really pushing things in a way that the old variant, which was already very bad, was not able to. So we have a very significant problem … The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS.”
Whitty’s comments came as seven new mass vaccination centres opened across England: in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol, Epsom and Stevenage. He said it would be “several weeks” before vaccinations against the virus started to take effect.
“We are now very close to the point with vaccination that we’re going to be able to get on top of this, but it’s not yet. If we want the numbers not to go up still further, everybody has to minimise the number of unnecessary contacts they have in their day.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “There’s a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily, they will have Covid.”
Asked about the idea of extending mask rules to outdoors, Whitty said that while there “might be some logic” for mask use in certain outdoor settings such as packed queues, by far the bigger issue was indoor proximity. However, on BBC Breakfast he refused to answer viewers questions about whether more restrictions were necessary. “The decisions about exactly what restrictions are in place are very much a matter for ministers,” he said.
But he urged the public to do their bit now. He said: “This is everybody’s problem, any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person … This is the most important thing. Tinkering with the rules may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment. Everybody knows what they need to do.”
He added: “What we need to do before the vaccines have had their effect, because it’s going to take several weeks before that happens, is we need to really double down.”
Meanwhile, the minister for vaccine deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, said people should not sit down when going out to exercise. Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “So of course, exercise … But don’t go out and sit or have that opportunity of social interaction because you’re helping the virus and that’s what we want to avoid.”
And pressed on whether the current restrictions were enough, Zahawi told Today: “I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system, and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket. I’m worried about some of the pictures I’ve seen of social interactions in parks, if you have to exercise you can go out for exercise only.”
Whitty was also asked by a viewer whether he was given a new slide clicker for Christmas to avoid having to request slide changes at Downing Street coronavirus briefings.
The chief medical officer revealed he shared their frustration. “I’m with them on this one,” he said, adding: “I’m rather hoping someone has sent one to Downing Street. I think they said they had, but Downing Street has not passed it on to me.”
This content was originally published here.