Politics

UK faces coronavirus disaster, top scientists will warn in TV message to the nation


BRITAIN’S top scientists will issue a Doomsday Covid warning to the nation.

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance will say in a televised speech that the UK is at a “critical point”.

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Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are set to say in a televised speech that the UK is at a 'critical point'

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Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are set to say in a televised speech that the UK is at a ‘critical point’Credit: AP:Associated Press
Boris Johnson and his ministers will also be addressed privately, in a 'scary' briefing

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Boris Johnson and his ministers will also be addressed privately, in a ‘scary’ briefingCredit: AFP

They will also privately address ministers, with a source saying their briefing is so “scary” it will “make the Cabinet wet the bed”.

But warring MPs warned Boris Johnson a lockdown would wreck the economy.

The scientists will warn the nation is at a “critical point” — while No 10 said Brits are in the “last-chance saloon” in the fight to avoid a second national lockdown.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also refused to rule out Londoners being told to work from home as early as this week.

But senior Tory MPs urged Boris Johnson to hold firm and not risk “economic disaster” by ordering another national lockdown.

One minister told The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh it was decision time for Mr Johnson, who must decide whether to face down the boffins to save the economy.

Prof Whitty will issue a Doomsday warning that the nation is in the grip of a second wave

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Prof Whitty will issue a Doomsday warning that the nation is in the grip of a second waveCredit: Reuters

They said: “It’s getting close to being too late. It’s two minutes to midnight.”

Another senior Tory told Trevor’s column in today’s Sun: “Scientists are running the Government. They are afraid people will blame them for their mistakes and threatening behind closed doors to go public if they are overruled.”

Prof Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, and Dr Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser, will issue a Doomsday warning that the nation is in the grip of a second wave.

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In an unprecedented move, they will address the nation without a minister alongside them.

They will say a new tide of hospital admissions and deaths is on the horizon unless rules are followed.

Potential scenarios facing Britain will also be laid out. Prof Whitty will say in the address set to start at 11am: “The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic. We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

 

 

One source close to the lockdown talks said that Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick are also preparing to brief the Cabinet about the Covid second wave.

They told The Sun it will be so shocking it will “get the Cabinet to wet the bed”.

Government insiders warned the country must stick to restrictions or face another ­national lockdown. A Downing Street source said: “Infection rates are going up, we are in the grip of a second Covid wave and we’re now in the last-chance saloon.

“The Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer will set out the latest data and the stark reality we’re now facing.”

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock yesterday said he would “not rule out” ordering people in ­London to go back to working from home.

He said there was a danger the numbers could “shoot through the roof” unless effective action was taken. Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “We will support people who do the right thing and we will come down hard on people who do the wrong thing.”

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Strict coronavirus curfews have been introduced in Newcastle, leaving streets empty

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Strict coronavirus curfews have been introduced in Newcastle, leaving streets emptyCredit: ncjMedia

But the PM is facing a furious Cabinet row over a second lockdown, with several ministers warning him not to trash the economy.

Tory sceptics say it would be wrong to punish the whole country because people in a few regions are driving up infection rates by flouting social distancing.

A string of party heavyweights broke cover to urge caution. One, former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “We are just starting to see growth. To lock the economy down would be a disaster.”

Sir Graham Brady is tabling an amendment to force Mr Johnson to give Parliament the final say on imposing new measures.

He said: “In March we were told that we would suffer a short but severe lockdown, and that the purpose was to make sure NHS intensive care capacity was not overwhelmed.

“All of us were prepared to join a national effort to achieve that.

Fresh restrictions were also imposed on Birmingham after a rise in cases 

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Fresh restrictions were also imposed on Birmingham after a rise in cases Credit: AFP or licensors

“Now we are looking at open-ended restrictions. These restrictions are already costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods, leaving people — especially the young — without prospects or hope.

“We have got to strike a more sensible balance where we seek to protect the vulnerable from this nasty virus while making sure ­people’s lives and livelihoods can continue.”

Fellow Tory Steve Baker said: “It’s time to take stock of the balance of risks.

“We can be certain the public can’t afford another lockdown. Boris should be very slow indeed to agree yet more lockdown.”

Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan said a national lockdown could backfire — by pushing the peak of the second wave back to the height of winter. This would risk dumping hospitals with a double whammy of Covid and the seasonal winter crisis.

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Prof Heneghan told Sophy Ridge: “This is a long winter, we cannot afford to go now with harsh measures. If you lock down now you slow down the progression slightly.

“But then you get a resurgence because what happens in the population is there has to be a level of immunity for this to become manageable.”
He urged the PM to delay any short national lockdown until at least Christmas.

Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan is pushing for tougher lockdown measures in the capital.

A spokesman said: “The situation is clearly worsening. Sadiq will meet council leaders and any London-specific measures will be recommended to ministers following that.

“The Mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March.”

Lockdown options

NATIONAL LOCKDOWN: The PM could order the whole country into a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown. This would apply nationwide in an attempt to dampen down the infection rates.

STRONGER REGIONAL LOCKDOWNS: Ministers could impose even tougher restrictions on areas already under tighter rules, possibly closing pubs and restaurants altogether rather than just having a 10pm curfew.

EXTEND LOCAL LOCKDOWNS: Continuing the “whack-a-mole” approach with extra restrictions to regions when infection rates climb. This would let parts of the country with lower infection rates get back closer to normality.

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