LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Britain is at a critical point
in the COVID-19 pandemic and faces a very challenging winter,
one of the government's top medical advisers will warn at a
public briefing on Monday.
Cases in Britain are on the increase in what Prime Minister
Boris Johnson has labelled a second wave of the virus, with
large areas of the country subject to restrictions on social
freedom and London expected to be next in line.
"The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and
we are at a critical point in the pandemic," England's Chief
Medical Officer Chris Whitty is expected to say in an address
set for 1000 GMT on Monday.
"We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread
of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period."
More than 40,000 people in Britain have died within 28 days
of testing positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic
in March, the highest number in Europe.
New cases fell rapidly due to an unprecedented three-month
national lockdown, but have risen as the shuttered economy,
schools and offices reopened. The government has been heavily
criticised for a shortage of testing capacity.
The warning from Whitty is expected to foreshadow a national
address by Johnson later in the week, although this has not been
confirmed by ministers.
Health minister Matt Hancock on Sunday warned the country
was at a tipping point, saying that people must follow rules on
self-isolating or face the imposition of further lockdown
measures. The government announced large fines for
Hancock has refused to rule out another national lockdown -
something which Johnson has said would have disastrous
consequences for the economy - and said officials were meeting
to decide how best to handle the rising cases in London.
(Reporting by William James
Editing by Gareth Jones)