London — The U.K. government has reported the highest daily numbers of coronavirus cases since May in a spike that has prompted medical officials to warn that the public has "relaxed too much" and that, if people don't become more vigilant, Britain may be "in for a bumpy ride."
"Now is the time for us to reengage and realize that this is a continuing threat to us," England's deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said Monday.
Sunday and Monday saw nearly 3,000 coronavirus cases reported each day, up from between 1,400 to 1,700 cases reported daily over the previous week.
"This is a big change. It's now consistent over two days and it is of great concern at this point," Van-Tam said.
The surge comes as the U.K. government moves towards restarting the economy, urging people to start working from their offices again where possible and. Children have just begun the , and college students will soon be returning to campuses.
So far, Van-Tam said, the increase in cases has been largely among 17- to 21-year-olds, which could help to explain why the rates of hospitalizations and deaths haven't gone up as well. But he explained that younger people could spread the virus to their more vulnerable relatives, like what has happened in nearby France and Spain, which are battling large surges in case numbers.
"It's all very well saying that hospital admissions and deaths are at a very low level in the U.K., which is true, but if you look further into the European Union you can see that where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population they do, in turn, filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups, and we know that that then becomes a serious public health problem," he said.
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a second wave in Britain was "not inevitable," urging young people to follow social distancing guidelines and imposing new localized lockdown restrictions in certain hot spots around the country. He did say, however, that the new numbers were very concerning.
Speaking on BBC Newsbeat, a radio news station for young people, he put his directive bluntly: "Don't kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on."