James Naismith, the director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford, said it was clear the pandemic was trending upwards but warned: “The sudden jump is likely to reflect issues in the testing system reporting. 

“It seems very unlikely that we are back to a doubling of cases every three to four days. We will need to see a few more days of data to judge how fast case numbers are doubling.

“We can only guess how many people were actually infected with Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic, but it seems certain to have exceeded 100,000 per day. We were blind to cases in March – we have a good view of them now.”

Earlier this week, Prof Gupta, alongside Professor Carl Heneghan, of Oxford University, and Professor Karol Sikora, the Dean of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, wrote to the Government to call for a change of policy in its handling of the pandemic.

The letter, signed by dozens of scientists and academics, called for greater shielding of vulnerable communities to allow those not at great risk from the virus to continue with their lives. It said the current debate was unhelpfully polarised around views that coronavirus is either extremely deadly to all or poses no risk at all.

Prof Gupta, who has argued that a large number of people could have already been exposed to the virus, said: “The fate of this virus is going to be principally determined by what fraction of the population is either immune or already has some for of resistance to it.

“The proof is in the pudding. It’s a question of whether when infection rates rise, death rates will rise. We’ve seen a summer with very low infection rates despite quite a lot of mixing. So that indicates that there is a level of herd immunity in place.”

Listen to  Planet Normal, a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble with columnists Liam Halligan and Allison Pearson, on the audio player above or subscribe for free on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your preferred podcast app. Find out more about podcasts here.

Join Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan to discuss Professor Gupta’s predictions and the latest Planet Normal episode in the comments section of this article at 11am on Thursday 24 September.

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