Wednesday 15 April 2020 5:52 pm

UK 'probably' at coronavirus peak, says chief medical officer

The UK is likely now in the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, according to the government’s most senior health adviser.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said at today’s daily press briefing that the UK was “probably reaching the peak overall” of the country’s outbreak and “that’s what the flattening” of the increase in new cases shows.

Despite this, Whitty and health secretary Matt Hancock were both quick to add that it was too early to think about how the government would ease social distancing restrictions.

“We are not yet at the point where we can confidently and safely say we are past the peak and that we can think much about the next phases,” Whitty said.

When questioned as to why the UK hasn’t outlined a lockdown exit plan like other European countries, Hancock said: “Different countries are in different stages in this epidemic, and one of the things I think we’ve learned during this crisis is the clarity of the guidance to the public is incredibly important.”

The amount of new people testing positive for Covid-19 plateaued over the past week, however Whitty warned that does not mean deaths will do the same.

Another 761 people with coronavirus died in UK hospitals today, bringing the total to 12,868.

Today’s death toll was less than yesterday, however Whitty warned people to not expect numbers to start dropping yet as there is a lag between the number of new cases and the death toll.

“We do all think this has flattened out, but sadly we do think high numbers of deaths will continue for a short while,” he said.

“My expectation would be that the number of deaths may well go up, because after every weekend we see a dip over the weekend, and for two days afterwards, then an increase as we catch up with the numbers. After a long four day weekend there may be a bounce up tomorrow.”

The government’s top scientific council will meet tomorrow to decide whether to extend the lockdown.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the government does not expect there to be any changes to its social distancing measures after the meeting.