Professor Neil Ferguson has said the NHS may not be able to cope soon as coronavirus infections continue to rise
The NHS will be unable to cope if coronavirus cases continue to increase at the present rate, a scientist has warned.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said that while infections among 18 to 21-year-olds were falling, they were continuing to rise in other age groups.
He also predicted that "people will die" if households mix over Christmas, although he thinks the impact would be limited if it was for just one or two days.
"Unfortunately, in every other age group case numbers continue to rise at about the same rate they were.
"There are little hints of slowing, for instance in the North East of England, but we are not seeing the sort of slowing that we really need to to get on top of this," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Professor Neil Ferguson
"It is a worrying situation. We now have 8,000 people in hospital with Covid. That is about a third of the level we were at the peak of the pandemic in March.
"If the rate of growth continues as it is, it means that in a month's time we will be above that peak level in March and that is probably unsustainable.
"We are in a critical time right now. The health system will not be able to cope with this rate of growth for much longer."
Professor Ferguson said it will be a "political judgment" whether restrictions on households mixing should be relaxed over Christmas.
"It risks some transmission and there will be consequences of that. Some people will die because of getting infected on that day," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"But if it is only one or two days the impact is likely to be limited. So that is really a political judgment about the cost versus the benefits."
The professor's warning comes after more than 100,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in a week.
Weekly statistics from the part-privatised NHS Test and Trace system show 101,494 people tested positive at least once in the week to October 14.
This is an rise of 12 per cent on the previous week and is the highest since Test and Trace launched at the end of May.
Yet the percentage of contacts actually tracked down by private firms Serco and Sitel took another nose-dive.
Just 59.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached by Test and Trace.
This is down from 63 per cent the previous week and once again sets a new record low for contacts traced.
It means more than 100,000 people who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient in the latest week were not contacted by Test and Trace and told to self-isolate.