Concerns a ‘third wave’ of Covid-19 could hit the UK in a matter of weeks after a surge in cases in Europe are growing.
A government adviser, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), is reported to have said the UK is often a few weeks behind Europe in terms of infection levels.
And Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said it was very likely a third wave was on its way to the UK, and it was not a question of “whether it will happen – it’s how it will happen”.
He added: “Just as we have seen in Paris over the last few days, France was doing incredibly well only a few weeks ago and are now finding a sudden and significant flare-up.”
In the UK, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 has decreased in the West Midlands, East of England, South West and London during the latest week, according to the Office for National Statistics.
But the trend across other regions is uncertain. The ONS has highlighted the East Midlands, where there could be early signs of an infections rising.
In Birmingham, the rate stood at 75 cases per 100,000 of the population in the seven days to March 15, down from 86.4 the week before. That was from 856 new cases – down from 987 the week before.
Vaccinations in the UK have surpassed 26 million for those having their first dose, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson receiving his jab on Friday.
But the R number – the reproductive rate of the virus – has risen slightly in the UK to somewhere between 0.6 and 0.9.
Paris has been placed into a month-long lockdown after 35,000 new cases were recorded there in 24 hours.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said a “third wave” of infections in the country was looking increasingly likely.
Germany’s head of public health went further, announcing on Friday that the country is now at “the beginning of a third wave”.
Many of Italy’s regions have also gone back into the strictest form of lockdown with schools closed.
Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, speaking on ITV News, said: “The worry is that if we relax our guard, if we’re not careful it’ll start to rise again.
“The vaccination programme is saving lives and preventing deaths but it isn’t yet making a difference to the spread of the virus in the young and of course if it really spreads quickly in the young that will have real problems for the country.”