Covid-19 is now spreading “significantly” faster across England than the government’s worst-case scenario, top scientists have warned.
Newly published documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned the rapid spread of the virus meant the number of deaths this winter could surpass the 85,000 previously forecast.
The document, which is dated 14 October, estimates that there are between 43,000 and 74,000 new infections per day in England.
“This is significantly above the profile of the reasonable worst-case scenario, where the number of daily infections in England remained between 12,000 – 13,000 throughout October,” it said.
The document added that the number of infections and hospital admissions were breaching the worst-case scenario, while the number of daily deaths was “almost certain” to exceed this in the next two weeks.
A further 274 coronavirus deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.
However, the scientists said their projections should not be interpreted as forecasts and predictions, but rather intended to project potential outcomes based on current trends.
The figures do not take into account the rollout of recent restrictions, including local lockdowns.
The document said that if the number of new infections falls in the “very near future”, the trends could fall back below the worst case scenario.
But it warned that if the R rate remained above 1, the virus will “further diverge from the planning scenario”. According to the document, the R rate in the UK is currently between 1.3 and 1.5.
It comes amid renewed calls for a national lockdown to help halt the spread of the virus as infections continue to rise.
The government has previously resisted calls for a so-called circuit breaker lockdown, opting instead to roll out tiered restrictions in different parts of the country.
Fears that London could move into Tier 3 — the highest lockdown level — have increased in recent days after it emerged the capital has the highest R rate in the country.
However, the prevalence of the virus in London is still lower than in other regions, such as Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire.