“Worrying” new data shows how motor vehicle use is increasing as Brits begin to defy the coronavirus lockdown.
A graph, released by the government on Wednesday afternoon, revealed motor vehicle use on Monday was the highest since Boris Johnson imposed the lockdown on 23 March.
Prof Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said the uptake is “worrying” as the UK is still going through the peak of the epidemic.
She said at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference on Wednesday: “Up to now, we have seen very dramatic falls in most modes, but there has been an uptick in motor vehicles.
“The message here is that we are still passing through this peak and this use of motor vehicles is the highest working day use since 23 March.
“We really have to be vigilant. Most people are making huge efforts to stay at home and save lives.
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“This is slightly worrying, so please: do stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.
“Go out for the necessities. The transport data will reflect that.”
The UK’s draconian lockdown will remain in place until next Thursday, when it will be reviewed.
Prof Doyle’s warning about car use came after it was announced 26,097 COVID-19 patients have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK.
The UK is now the second worst-hit country in Europe, based on each nation’s official reporting of deaths. Globally, it ranks behind only the US total, which is above 50,000, and Italy.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who led Wednesday’s briefing, said it was vital the UK proceeds “carefully” in lifting lockdown measures as he pointed to a rising number of news cases in Germany.
He said: “Having relaxed restrictions in Germany over the last week, they have seen a rise in the transmission rate of coronavirus.
“This is a very real risk and it is vital we proceed carefully, guided by the scientific advice, so that our next step through this crisis is a sure footed one.
“We mustn’t gamble away the sacrifices and the progress that we have made – we must continue to follow the scientific evidence and we must continue to take the right decisions at the right moment in time.”