The UK is “past the peak” of the current wave of the pandemic but infection rates are still high, England’s chief medical officer says.
Prof Chris Whitty said the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths were on a “downward slope” but that did not mean there would not be another peak.
Boris Johnson praised the “colossal” effort to vaccinate 10 million people, including 90% of those aged over 75.
But the NHS was still under “huge pressure”, the prime minister said.
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Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Prof Whitty said while the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 had reduced “quite noticeably”, it was still above that of the first peak in April 2020.
“So this is still a very major problem, but it is one that is heading the right way,” he said.
Prof Whitty said infection rates were “coming down but they are still incredibly high”.
If the rate was to increase again “from the very high levels we are at the moment the NHS will get back into trouble extraordinarily fast”, he added.
His comments were echoed by the prime minister, who warned the level of infection was still “forbiddingly high” and that it was too soon to relax current restrictions.
On Wednesday the UK recorded a further 1,322 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus, bringing the total number of people who have died by this measure to 109,335, while a further 19,202 new cases were recorded.