Third wave could be ‘much less significant’ as UK at ‘very low levels’ of COVID cases


The UK is “at or close to the bottom” of coronavirus case levels, according to England’s deputy chief medical officer who praised the public for sticking to lockdown measures.

Speaking at a Downing Street COVID briefing, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “We are really in very low levels that are comparable to where we were in September last year.

“We are running as a typical seven-day average at just over 2,000 people testing positive per day.

“My sense is that probably we are at or close to the bottom at the moment in terms of this level of disease in the UK.”

People eat and drink in central London as COVID lockdown restrictions are eased
People eat and drink outdoors in central London as COVID lockdown restrictions are eased

He added: “Most of the steady decline we have seen, the disappearance of our third wave, has been down to the efforts of the British people in following lockdown.”

But he also warned of “twists and turns ahead” and said he anticipated “some degree of bumpiness” probably in the autumn and winter.

The UK government has announced it has secured another 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to use as booster jabs to protect the country’s progress ahead of the colder months.

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Prof Van-Tam said the modelling suggested there will be a third wave in the UK but it “may be just a third upsurge and much less significant”.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly warned in recent weeks that the third wave of coronavirus that has been sweeping Europe will eventually “wash up on our shores”.

Prof Van-Tam said in the next weeks as further lockdown measures in England are set to be eased there will be “good pressures” and “bad pressures” on R.

R represents the average number of people a person with the virus goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially – but it is shrinking if it is below 1.

He said the bad pressures would be the rising levels of mixing among Britons which would have a “propensity to increase R”.

But he also said the continuing vaccine rollout to younger people would put “downward pressure” on R, as he likened it to “competing forces”.

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