Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, attends a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5.
Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, attends a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5. Hannah McKay/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The United Kingdom is now at the deadliest point of the coronavirus pandemic, with numbers higher now than during last year’s peak, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Monday. 

“We’ve got to be very clear that we’re now at the worst point of this epidemic for the UK, in the future we will have the vaccine, but the numbers at the moment are higher than they were in the previous peak — by some distance,” Whitty told the BBC

He said he expects the next few weeks to be the “most dangerous time,” before the vaccines that are being rolled out across the country can have an impact. Currently, there are over 30,000 people in hospital and that number is still rising, Whitty added.

We’re now at a situation where in the UK as a whole around in 1 in 50 people is infected and in London it’s around 1 in 30, [in] parts of London it’s around 1 in 20, so there is a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily, they will have Covid.”

Whitty’s warning comes as seven mass vaccination centres are opened in England, as efforts continue to massively ramp up the numbers receiving the shot. People over 80 years old and health and social care workers who live near to the sites are being offered the chance to book appointments.

The UK is aiming to vaccinate around 15 million of its most vulnerable members of society by mid-February, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

“This is really a race against time,” he told the BBC’s Radio 4 program.

“Once we open up more vaccination centers next week and the week after and of course the community pharmacies … nobody should be more than a ten-mile radius of a site.”

UK Health Minister Matt Hancock told the BBC on Sunday that all adults in the UK would be inoculated by the autumn. Hancock will hold a press conference later on Monday to announce the delivery plan.