A top coronavirus adviser has said he is “very worried” with infections once again on the increase.
Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) which advises the government, warned “we just don’t really know what’s going to happen” as winter approaches.
It comes as 33,904 cases were reported on Wednesday, the highest in a day for nearly four weeks.
Case numbers, after dramatically dropping at the end of July, are once again on the rise, as this government chart indicates.
Furthermore, a further 170 and 111 deaths were recorded on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
The 170 figure was the highest since 12 March, when the after-effects of the UK’s second wave were still being felt.
Asked about the figures, Prof Openshaw told Times Radio on Thursday: “I think it’s very worrying. This is a very large number.
“If you think 34,000 people, that’s a lot of people testing positive, and to be seeing over 100 deaths a day at this stage… before schools have gone back, while the weather is still relatively good… we’re not back into winter yet.”
Watch: Thursday's politics briefing
Numerous experts, including Prof Chris Whitty, the UK’s most prominent COVID scientist, have warned of a “late autumn/winter surge” of coronavirus as colder conditions favour respiratory viruses.
Prof Openshaw continued: “I think we’re all really anxious about what’s going to happen once we return to normality.”
He added: “We’re going into the winter with really very high levels of infection out there in the community and we just don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
It comes as another expert who advises the government on vaccines said booster jabs will be needed for some people.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was meeting on Thursday to discuss a potential booster campaign and the people who might “really need” another jab.
Committee member Prof Adam Finn said a decision is imminent that those who are “very unlikely to be well protected by those first two doses” will need a third one. He added more evidence is required before a decision is made on a wider rollout of third doses.
As of Tuesday, 40,987,846 people – 77.5% of the adult population – had received two doses.
So far, the vaccine rollout is estimated to have directly averted between 91,700 and 98,700 deaths, according to figures from Public Health England released on Thursday.
The latest estimates also indicate the programme has directly averted 82,100 hospital admissions, while up to 24.4 million infections are thought to have prevented.
Watch: Coronavirus vaccine in numbers