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Coronavirus: England at 'tipping point', warns top health official

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People walk past a sign that refers to COVID-19 closures in London, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.
People walk past a sign that refers to COVID-19 closures in London, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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England is at "a tipping point" in its fight against COVID-19 and must act now to prevent fatality shooting up once more, the country's deputy chief medical officer said.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned in a statement released on Sunday that "the seasons are against us" with the colder, darker winter months a difficult period for the National Health Service (NHS) in any given year.

"Basically, we are running into a headwind," he stressed.

England's R number — which indicates the rate of transmission — is now between 1.2 and 1.5. This means that every infected person transmits the disease to more than one person. Hospital and ICU admissions due to COVID-19 are also rising again.

"Although the epidemic re-started in younger adult age groups in the last few weeks, there is clear evidence of gradual spread into older age groups in the worst affected areas. Sadly, just as night follows day, increases in deaths will follow on in the next few weeks," Van-Tam said.

"In our national fight against COVID-19, we are at a tipping point similar to where we were in March; but we can prevent history repeating itself if we all act now," he added.

He noted, however, that the country now has "much-improved testing capabilities" as well as "better treatments" and urged everyone "help our hard-working NHS staff" by self-isolating when they experience COVID-19 symptoms, washing their hands regularly, wearing face-covering in confined spaces and adhering to the two-metre social distancing rules.

Van-Tam's warning comes a day before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a multi-tier system that would see each region implement certain measures to stem the rise in infections based on their epidemiological situation.

The UK is the world's fifth-most affected country in terms of deaths, with 42,850 people confirmed to have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The EU/EEA and the UK region is the second most affected region after the Americas, accounting for more than 195,200 deaths.

Spike in cases across the bloc has led member states to reimpose tougher measures.

In France, where more than 26,800 new cases were reported on Saturday — a new record for the country — new restrictions came into force this weekend in several major cities including Lyon and Lille after they were declared maximum alert zones.

Bars and cafés will now be forced to remain closed.

In Germany, restrictions on nightlife were brought in in cities including Berlin, Cologne and Framckurt while the Spanish capital, Madrid, is in a state of alert with all non-essential trips restricted.