Coronavirus eradication is ‘technically impossible’ and second wave this winter could be MORE severe than the first, Professor Chris Whitty says
- Prof. Whitty said: ‘It’s not just in Game Of Thrones that winter is always coming’
- England’s chief medical officer said Britain was negotiating ‘balancing act’
- If the ‘R’ (reproductive rate) is not kept below one then another wave will come
- It comes after Boris Johnson said Britain was ‘past the peak’ of the pandemic
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
England’s chief medical officer warned: ‘It’s not just in Game Of Thrones that winter is always coming … the winter is always worse than summer, spring and autumn for health services.’
Although Boris Johnson told yesterday’s Downing Street briefing that Britain was ‘past the peak,’ Prof. Whitty said if the ‘R’ (reproductive rate) of the virus was not kept below one then we were bound for another vicious tsunami of the contagion.
Every country seeking to ease lockdown measures now must negotiate an ‘extremely difficult balancing act’ to keep the pandemic under control, Prof. Whitty said in an online Gresham College lecture.
Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘It’s not just in Game Of Thrones that winter is always coming’
PM’s exit strategy hangs on the R value
The Prime Minister’s exit strategy all depends on the crucial R value – the rate of infection. This signifies how many people the average patient with the virus goes on to infect.
At the start of the outbreak R was 3. But yesterday the Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, said that it had fallen to between 0.6 and 0.9.
Boris Johnson was adamant the number could not go back above 1. He told the press conference: ‘Keeping the R down is going to be absolutely vital.’
The Prime Minister played a two minute video explaining why it was so important to keep it low.
It said if 100 people had the virus and R was above 1, these people would infect more than 100 others – and rates would rise rapidly.
If R was less than 1, these 100 people would infect fewer than 100 others who would in turn infect even fewer and rates would fall.
In particular, the virus reproduction ‘R’ number must be kept below one – meaning each infected person could expect to pass it to fewer than one other person on average.
Mr Johnson yesterday put the ‘R’ at the heart of the battle. He insisted nothing can be done that lets it rise above one, which would mean the outbreak was growing again.
Scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told the briefing that he believed the R was currently between 0.6 and 0.9 across the country.
Prof Whitty said: ‘We need to make sure that R does not go back above one. Because if not we will go back to a second wave. It is entirely plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated.
‘Every country has got an extremely difficult balancing act, and we all need to be honest about the fact there are no easy solutions here. Covid-19 is a very long way from finished and eradication is technically impossible for this disease.’
Heading his first Downing Street briefing since falling ill, Mr Johnson dashed any hopes of an imminent loosening of the lockdown, after making clear that a new flare-up of the deadly disease would be worse than the current crippling impact on the economy.
People applaud on Westminster Bridge during the Clap for our Carers campaign in support of the NHS, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease
Outlining several key unknowns about coronavirus, Prof Whitty highlighted seasonality, saying: ‘There may be a seasonal element to this, we don’t know, it’s too early with this virus.’
He went on: ‘It’s not just in Game Of Thrones that winter is always coming – it is also true in every health service.
‘It may be that there’s a seasonal element and if so, for most respiratory viruses, they are more likely to be transmitted, there is a higher likelihood of transmission, in the winter.
‘The winter is always worse than summer, spring and autumn for health services, and we need to think about this in terms of how we come out for the next phase.’
However, he added social distancing measures are likely to reduce rates of flu and other respiratory illnesses when winter arrives.
Hospital staff come out of Chelsea and Westminster and are greeted by a small but enthusiastic crowd, including several car loads of Met Police Officers