It will take another week or so for a clearer picture to emerge on whether social distancing measures are leading to a true levelling off of Covid-19 cases, the UK’s chief scientific adviser has said.
Sir Patrick Vallance said the number of new confirmed cases “could be moving in the right direction” but stressed that longer-term data is needed.
He told the daily Downing Street press conference: “What you can see is there is not that big upswing of growth that we talked about at the beginning.
“There is a fairly steady increase in numbers. It’s possible that we’re beginning to see the beginning of change in terms of the curve flattening a little bit.
“We won’t know that for sure for a week or so.
“But what we’re not seeing is an acceleration.
“It does begin to suggest that things might be moving in the right direction in terms of numbers and it’s important that we carry on with the measures that we have got in place in order to make sure that this does go in the right direction.”
Data shows that 6,159 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Monday, up by 786 from 5,373 the day before.
Sir Patrick said the data on deaths does “bounce around” due to delays in reporting but said the the UK is “roughly a couple of weeks behind France, a few weeks behind Italy, but you can see broadly that things across Europe move in the same direction.”
However, he later stressed that the UK was not necessarily heading for Italy’s death toll, which has seen more than 17,000 people die so far.
“We are three or four weeks behind Italy in terms of the outbreak,” he said, adding: “It doesn’t mean we end up with the same numbers.”
Turning to hospital admissions, he said there were possible similar signs that “we are beginning to see the start of a change where we start seeing numbers flattening off.”
Sir Patrick also said there should not be an overall increase in demand above the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds available in the UK.
He said: “There are always times in every winter when ICU beds top out in individual hospitals, and that may happen and I can’t guarantee it won’t.
“What we can say, though, is that the numbers as we look at them now look as though we should come in about right, there shouldn’t be an overall increase above the number of beds available.
“The NHS, I think, has done an amazing job in terms of increasing the capacity of ICU and so things seem to be tracking in the right direction, but I don’t think I can say more than that.”