Leading health experts have cautioned the public against not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, warning that relaxation in attitudes has led to the recent increase in the number of cases.
The government confirmed as of 9 am on Monday 7th September there were 2,498 confirmed new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours. This followed the 2,998 new cases reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily number of cases since the peak of the pandemic in May.
These latest figures bring the seven-day rate of new COVID-19 cases in the UK to more than 20 per 100,000 people. England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has said this increase is “greatly concerning”.
The trend has been particularly noted in the 17 - 21 age group, especially as younger people return to university. In many parts of the country, limited public gatherings are now allowed. Bars and restaurants have also reopened, which has seemingly misguided people into relaxing social distancing measures and brought a false sense of security that the virus has passed.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said younger people need to continue to exercise caution to prevent a second spike in the virus, especially with the autumn and winter months just around the corner.
Mr Jenrick cautioned, "There's a responsibility on younger people to not just stay at home, obviously to go out and go to work and to enjoy pubs and restaurants, but to do so in accordance with the guidelines." He also added it is the responsibility of younger people to ensure they do not pass on the virus to older, more vulnerable segments of the population.
Echoing his sentiments, Prof. Andrew Hayward, an advisor from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said surveillance data indicate a worrying increase in the number of cases which could get quickly out of hand if people don't comply with self-isolation and social distancing measures.
These comments follow the implementation of several increased restrictions in certain parts of the country. The country borough of Caerphilly in Wales will lockdown from Tuesday evening. Additionally, restrictions on household visits were extended for another week in some western parts of Scotland.
Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that renewed restrictions followed an increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, tweeting, "I understand this will not be welcome news for people living in these areas but it is necessary to help us limit the spread of COVID. Acting now gives us the time and the space to protect people and get more control over the virus."
These worrisome comments from leading health experts and politicians should serve as a wake-up call for the public to get more serious about practising social distancing. A renewal in vigilance now could reduce the possibility of a second wave that could quickly overwhelm healthcare facilities around the country.