Rising numbers of coronavirus cases are leading to fears Britons are easing social distancing measures too hastily, with the United Kingdom’s deputy chief medical officer worrying people had “relaxed too much” over the summer.
Warning people on Monday that they must continue to follow guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, Jonathan Van-Tam said: “We have got to start taking this very seriously again.
“If we’re not careful we’re going to have a bumpy ride.”
Daily case numbers had been rising at about 1,000 a day for most of August, but have started to increase in recent days.
In its latest bulletin on Monday, the health ministry reported 2,948 new cases – the second daily high since May – bringing the total number to 350,100.
Van-Tam acknowledged that while data suggested the biggest rise in cases has been among young people – the 17 to 21-year-old age group – there was also evidence to show a more “creeping geographic trend” across the UK.
“Even if you’re at lower risk of coronavirus, you can still have really serious symptoms and infect other people,” Matt Hancock, the health minister, wrote on Twitter.
“It’s really important everyone plays their part to follow the social distancing rules and help beat this disease,” he said.
In a video shared by the BBC on Monday, Hancock said: Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on” – comments that were mocked by some social media users.
Even if you’re at lower risk of #coronavirus, you can still have really serious symptoms & infect other people.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) September 7, 2020
The surge in the number of cases, however, comes amid stronger testing capacity since the peak of the first wave earlier this year.
While fatalities increased by three to 41,554, Van-Tam urged caution: “It’s all very well saying that hospital admissions and deaths are at a very low level in the UK … But if you look further into the European Union, you can see that where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population, they do in turn filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups.
“And we know that that then becomes a serious public health problem,” he said.
The spike in UK cases follows jumps in Spain and France, two countries where a growing number of people were hospitalised with COVID-19 over the June-August summer months.