Coronavirus cases are “increasing exponentially” ahead of what could be a “difficult” Christmas, a government scientist has warned.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK is in a “risky period” because the R rate, which rates the ability of COVID-19 to spread, has risen “above one”.
In an interview with journalist Robert Peston for ITV News, Prof Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Cases are increasing now exponentially.
“They are increasing exponentially now, from a relatively low level, but they are increasing."
On Monday, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the UK reached 2,948, the second day in a row it was just below the 3,000-mark.
Sunday’s tally of 2,988 new cases was the highest daily figure since 22 May.
Prof Edmunds, who has previously said the UK should have gone into lockdown sooner, told ITV: "The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas.
“And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well it's meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that.
“And it's all high risk. And it's all indoors. Indoors makes a difference."
He added: "We've been lucky with the weather – and it's turned.”
During the summer, many Britons flocked to packed beaches to enjoy various spells of hot weather, despite warnings to keep away from others.
Prof Edmunds said it is “quite risky” to visit people in their homes.
"You are there for quite a long time,” he said. “It is impossible to socially distance with family members.
"That is now having an effect. And we can see the epidemic is taking off again. So I don't think we've hit that sweet spot where we've been able to control the epidemic and allow the economy to return to some sort of normality. I don't think we've managed that."
On Tuesday, housing minister Robert Jenrick warned that “the virus is still very much with us, it's still concerning”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We're going to have to be especially cautious as we go into the autumn and winter.”
Watch: Robert Jenrick on coronavirus: Caution needed in autumn and winter
On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said the UK could face “a bumpy ride over the next few months” after a “big change” in infections.
He said the public had “relaxed too much” over the summer and described the rising number of cases as a “great concern”.
He said: “We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.
“And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.”
He said that the rise is “much more marked” in the 17-21 age group, but noted there is a “more general and creeping geographic trend” across the UK.
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