17,540 more test positive in second biggest rise – as SAGE member warns bug has a 'gun to the head' of the country

THE number of UK coronavirus cases rose by 17,540 today – the second highest daily spike recorded since the start of the pandemic.

It means 561,815 have tested positive for the bug in Britain while 42,592 have died after 77 more deaths were confirmed today.

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Today's rise in infections is well over double last Thursday's, when 6,914 more cases were logged.

And Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the Government's SAGE committee, said in the North of England it would not be long until the health service would be stretched.

He denied scientists were 'holding a gun to the PM's head' on the restrictions.

"It's the virus holding a gun to the PM's head," he said. 

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England acknowledged the "very concerning" sustained rise in infections.

She said: “We are seeing a definite and sustained increase in cases and admissions to hospital. The trend is clear, and it is very concerning.

“It remains essential that we all continue to socially distance, wash our hands regularly, wear a face covering when needed, and follow the guidance if living in an area with additional restrictions.

“Numbers of deaths from Covid-19 are also rising so we must continue to act to reduce transmission of this virus.”

It comes as…

  • Police crack down on travellers not wearing face masks at busy stations as Covid cases rise
  • North lockdown restrictions: Boris Johnson to announce tougher coronavirus rules on Monday shutting pubs and restaurants
  • Coronavirus map reveals full list of risk areas ahead of Boris’ ‘traffic light’ system
  • Hospital admissions in North West ‘could reach April peak by end of October’ say leaked docs
  • 24 people die after major coronavirus outbreak at Wales hospital ‘linked to super-spreader’

In England, a further 43 fatalities were confirmed, bringing the number of Covid deaths in English hospitals to 30,323.

The patients, who died between August 10 and October 7, were aged between 32 and 99 – and all but one had underlying health conditions.

Scotland recorded another five deaths today while Wales and Northern Ireland each recorded one.

It brings the overall Covid death tolls in those countries to 2,538, 1,644 and 587 respectively.

THREE TIER LOCKDOWN

It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil a simplified three-tier local lockdown code next week.

In plans signed off at a ministerial “gold command” meeting last night, Tier 1 will see current social distancing measures, the “rule of six” and a pub curfew of 10pm enforced.

Areas in Tier 2 will have the same restrictions plus a ban on households mixing.

Vast swathes of the virus-hit North West and North East would automatically fall under Tier 3, in which pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses will be shut.

People will not be able to mix households — except those with exemptions — and will have to abide by the national social distancing laws, such as wearing face masks.

A leaked document obtained by the Nottingham Post today showed that they were going to be announced on Monday, and come into effect on Wednesday next week.

It also claimed that levels one and two had been agreed – but the final top tier was still under consideration.

It said: “Level One and Two measures have now been signed off by Covid O committee but there is further work ongoing on Level 3."

Ministers are still working out other details, such as whether leisure centres and hairdressers stay open or shut.

Schools, work and retail shops will stay open.

The measures will be imposed for a limited period — certainly for some weeks — but are yet to be fully agreed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to bail out blighted businesses, with workers entitled to a new form of furlough.

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