* Johnson ponders second lockdown
* This time the restrictions will be different - Hancock
* UK could hit 50,000 COVID cases per day by mid Oct -
* Northern Ireland, Wales tighten restrictions
(Adds Johnson comment, raising of alert level, Northern Ireland
measures, latest death toll)
By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton
LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Britain will face an
exponentially growing death rate from COVID-19 within weeks
unless urgent action is taken to halt a rapidly spreading second
wave of the outbreak, the country's senior medics said on
The United Kingdom already has the biggest official COVID-19
death toll in Europe - and the fifth largest in the world -
while it is borrowing record amounts in an attempt to pump
emergency money through the damaged economy.
But new COVID-19 cases are rising by at least 6,000 per day
in Britain, according to week-old data, hospital admissions are
doubling every eight days, and the testing system is buckling.
Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical officer, and
Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific adviser, cautioned that
if left unrestricted the epidemic would reach 50,000 new cases
per day by mid-October in the United Kingdom.
"If this continued along the path...the number of deaths
directly from COVID ... will continue to rise, potentially on an
exponential curve, that means doubling and doubling and doubling
again and you can quickly move from really quite small numbers
to really very large numbers," Whitty said.
"If we don't do enough the virus will take off and at the
moment that is the path that we are clearly on and if we do not
change course then we're going to find ourselves in a very
The virus is spreading across all areas of the country and
less than 8% of the population have antibodies to the virus,
though in London around 17% of the population may have
antibodies, Vallance said.
Speed and action are urgently needed, Vallance and Whitty
said, adding that as winter was approaching the COVID problem
would haunt Britain for another six months at least.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said new restrictions would be
different to last time. The government wants to crack down on
socialising but schools and many workplaces will stay open.
The chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland recommended all four nations move up to
COVID-19 alert "Level 4" - an epidemic is in general
circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the leaders of the three
devolved nations that rising COVID-19 cases were a cause for
"great concern" and he was committed to working with their
administrations to tackle the virus.
The Sun newspaper reported that Johnson would announce a 10
pm closing time for pubs, bars and restaurants. He is due to
address parliament on the coronavirus issue on Tuesday.
Northern Ireland said it would extend existing restrictions
in some localities on households mixing indoors across the whole
of the province from Tuesday, while Wales slapped curbs on four
more areas, also from Tuesday, leaving just under a third of the
Welsh population under restriction.
The Welsh measures prevent people entering the areas without
a reasonable excuse such as education or work. People will also
only be able to meet people they don't live with outdoors.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that additional
restrictions were almost certain to be imposed.
The official UK death toll stands at 41,788 people.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton, Estelle Shirbon;
Editing by Angus MacSwan, Toby Chopra and Gareth Jones)