- The UK could be heading for another "hard lockdown" if the new law banning gatherings of more than six people is not obeyed, an expert who advises the government on COVID-19 has warned.
- "We really need to act very quickly now to prevent this from growing exponentially," said Imperial College Professor Peter Openshaw.
- He said the "trickle" of coronavirus could turn into a "cascade" if the new rules are ignored, saying 'we must act fast' to stop the virus from spreading rapidly throughout the population.
- The government says a second lockdown is still a "nuclear option."
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The UK faces a second "hard lockdown" if new rules banning large social gatherings are not obeyed, an expert has claimed, warning that the "trickle" of new coronavirus cases threatens to turn into a "cascade" within days.
Professor Peter Openshaw, an expert in experimental medicine and an adviser to the government on COVID-19, told Sky News presenter Sophie Ridge on Sunday that the government "must act fast" to stop the coronavirus from spreading rapidly and urged people to obey new rules which ban any social gathering of more than six.
"We need to act very quickly now to prevent this [coronavirus infections] from growing exponentially, and that's the main point, is that we must act fast because it is so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay even for a few days. This is potentially going to be quite dangerous now at this particular moment."
Openshaw said the daily spread of infections, which increased significantly last week, had returned to "exponential growth" and said the fact the virus had already started to spread again in care homes meant that it will "inevitably" be followed by more "hospitalizations and deaths."
He added: "The rule of six ... is going to cause pain and suffering for us all to go back to some degree of lockdown. But if we don't do this now we are going to be right back in hard lockdown in short order."
The spread of coronavirus is now accelerating in all parts of England, according to government figures published on Friday.
Statistics from Imperial College London indicate that the R rate — which is the average number of people an infected person transmits the virus to — is at 1.7, indicating that the virus is spreading rapidly.
Boris Johnson wants to maintain the current system of introducing local lockdowns in areas, like Birmingham and Bolton, where infection rates are highest.
Robert Buckland, a cabinet minister, insisted on Sunday that a second national lockdown remains a "nuclear option."