Boris Johnson has warned that following lockdown rules is “absolutely critical” after new research shows that Covid rates are still too high.
The Prime Minister said that what the UK faces will “undoubtedly have a tough few weeks ahead of it”.
He pointed to new research, including Imperial College London’s React study, which shows current coronavirus levels are still too high.
During a visit to the flood-affected northwest today, he was asked whether the lockdown restrictions might not be relaxed until the summer.
In response, he told reporters, “I think it is too early to say when we can lift some of the restrictions.
“We will then take a look at how we are doing (February 15), but I think what we see in the ONS (Office for National Statistics) data, in the React survey, we see the risk of contagion with the new variant Das we saw it just before Christmas – there is no doubt that it is spreading very quickly.
“It’s not deadlier, but much more contagious and the numbers are huge.”
Downing Street also refused today to rule out a lockdown that would last until the summer.
The React study shows that the prevalence of coronavirus across England rose by 50 percent between the beginning of December and the second week of January.
143,000 volunteers were tested in England between January 6th and 15th.
The results showed that one in 63 people was infected.
The researchers said their results showed that there was “worrying evidence of a recent surge in infections” that covered part of the last lockdown period.
The study found the national Covid prevalence halved from 0.91 percent in early December to 1.58 percent.
While the prevalence increased in all adult age groups, it was highest among 18- to 24-year-olds.
What is worrying is that it has more than doubled in the over 65 age group.
London had the highest regional prevalence, increasing from 1.21 percent to 2.8 percent.
But there were also climbs in the South East, East England, West Midlands, South West and North West.
The only region where there was a decrease was Yorkshire and Humber, and the prevalence remained stable in the East Midlands and the Northeast.
However, the researchers warned that the number of infections was still high in these areas.
The study’s authors said the national R-value – based on the number of people to whom an infected person passes the virus on – was estimated at 1.04.
For the first time, the report includes mobility data showing that human movements decreased in late December and increased in early January, which the scientists said helped explain the change in prevalence.
Professor Paul Elliott, program director at Imperial, warned that “more and more lives will be lost” if prevalence remains high.
He said: “Our data shows worrying evidence of a recent surge in infections that we will continue to monitor closely.
“In order to prevent our already overloaded health system from becoming overwhelmed, infections must be eliminated. If the prevalence continues at the high rate we are seeing, hospitals will continue to be under immense pressure and more and more lives will be lost.
“We are all helping to keep this situation from getting worse and we must do our best to stay home wherever possible.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the results show “why we cannot be on our guard in the coming weeks”.
He added: “Infections across England are very high and this will continue to affect the already significant pressures our NHS and hospitals are facing.
“It is absolutely essential that everyone does their part to reduce infection.”