The UK stands “at a critical point” in the Covid-19 pandemic but the data is “heading in the wrong direction”, Chris Whitty will warn at a snap press conference with top experts.
The chief medical officer’s stark words follow Boris Johnson cautioning on Friday a second wave “is coming” and may hit the country as winter bites.
Whitty will head a snap public briefing at Number 10 on the latest data on coronavirus alongside chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, at 11am on Monday, Downing Street said.
On Friday, the “R” rate jumped again to between 1.1 and 1.4 and daily infection numbers peaked over 4,000 last week for the first time since May.
The pair are expected to back Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock’s attempts to persuade the public to stick to the new “rule of six” on social gatherings in order to avoid full lockdown.
Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.
“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”
Using charts and graphs to set out the latest figures, they will also present data on other countries in the grip of a second wave and how this could be replicated in the UK.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Hancock said there was a danger the infection rate could “shoot through the roof”.
It came as the government announced those who fail to self-isolate may face a hefty fine of £10,000.
Hancock said anyone who saw their neighbours breaking the rules should tell the police, adding: “I am very worried about this second wave.
“We have seen in other countries around Europe how it can absolutely shoot through the roof.”
The health secretary also hinted a second national lockdown was possible.
“The nation faces a tipping point.”
He added: “We have a choice. Either everybody follows the rules – the rule of six and the need to self-isolate if you have a positive test or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace – or we will have to take more measures.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he will support the government should it impose a second lockdown, but blamed the government’s failure to get a grip of testing for the recent spike in cases.